Trainee GPs expecting a £20,000 golden hello incentive to train in certain areas have been denied payments after they were misled by a “lack of clarity” over eligibility.
The government’s ‘golden hello’ scheme gives trainees across England a £20,000 pay-out to work in an area struggling with recruitment and, after a 90% take-up, the government said last April it was expanding the scale of the scheme.
But leaders at the BMA have slammed the scheme after trainee doctors who made “major life decisions” in the belief they would receive a £20,000 bonus discovered they were ineligible for the scheme after starting their posts.
The BMA reported receiving a number of complaints from trainees and has entered discussions with Health Education England (HEE) about its targeted enhanced recruitment scheme (TERS) about the impact of the “lack of clarity” over eligibility.
Deputy chair of the representative body of the BMA and GP workforce lead, Helena McKeown, said: “We are aware of a number of cases throughout the country in which trainees applied for places in good faith on the understanding they would benefit from this scheme, only to find, once they had started, not all the posts advertised came with the financial incentive attached, and so some have missed out.
“A lack of clarity here led to an unfair situation in which some trainees benefited from the scheme and others didn’t. Applicants may have made major life decisions based on the belief they were entitled to the payment and such a situation will have impacted them greatly.”
HEE said it is providing support for trainees “who feel they have been affected by this” and added that the information on its online recruitment portal has been altered.
The TERS programme was launched back in 2016 in an attempt to recruit more GPs to rural regions and under-recruited areas. Under the scheme, trainees commit to working in one of 23 identified hard-to-recruit areas – including Cumbria, Doncaster and Hull – for at least three years.
In 2016, over 100 trainees received the one-off £20,000 payment as part of the scheme, with then-health secretary Jeremy Hunt announcing that the scheme would be extended to 200 trainees for the next year. In 2018-19, the scheme managed a 100% uptake with all 265 places filled.
GP shortages across the NHS is an on-going problem, and workforce shortages, exacerbated by Brexit, have grown to the extent that leading think tanks called it the biggest threat to the future NHS – although the BMA previously warned that the golden hello expansion would not solve the GP crisis.
McKeown added: “In the midst of a recruitment crisis in general practice, GPs need to be sure that these schemes are run transparently and able to deliver properly for patients and the profession, and we would urge HEE to do everything possible to re-establish confidence in this scheme going forwards.”