HC Deb 06 February 2002 vol 379 cc1034-5W
Mr. Hepburn

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what action the Government are taking to recruit more(a) nurses, (b) physiotherapists, (c) occupational therapists and (d) GPs in the North East; and if he will make a statement. [17406]

Mr. Hutton

The Government's plans for modernising the national health service work force are set out in the document "Investment and reform for NHS staff—Taking forward the NHS plan" published on 15 February 2001. This details activity in hand to modernise work force planning including the establishment of work force development confederations at local level. These bring together NHS and non-NHS employers to plan the healthcare work force. They will work with health authorities (HAs) to produce an integrated work force plan which underpins the service plans set out in their Health Improvement Programme (HimP).

The Northern Workforce Development Confederation is engaged in a number of initiatives to recruit more nurses, physiotherapists and occupational therapists in the north-east. The confederation is running four return-to practice nursing courses and in-house returner training for some physiotherapists and occupational therapists. Study courses for nursing assistants to train to access pre-registration nursing courses are being run and two trusts are seconding nursing assistants onto nurse training.

Individual trusts in the north-east are recruiting nurses from the Philippines and holding fast track recruitment days for all professions. Open days at hospitals are being held emphasising family friendly working and support groups. The confederation and three trusts were represented at the Evening Chronicle Jobs Event at the Telewest Arena in Newcastle on 23 and 24 November. One trust is recruiting newly qualified nurses over establishment for expansion plans.

The confederation is also giving presentations to schools and colleges, careers fairs and recruitment days; placing posters/leaflets in various public places such as libraries, sports centres, general practitioners surgeries, village halls, and running an advertising campaign on the back of buses until the end of December for general recruitment in all careers and for return to practice advertisements.

We are committed to boosting GP numbers and have already introduced a number of measures to encourage more doctors into primary care. These include a "Golden Hello" scheme which will give £5,000 to every GP who joins the NHS, with an extra payment of up to £5,000 if they work in an under-doctored area and a new £22 million GP training package whereby new GPs will be eligible for additional training of up to 20 days a year. We have also given a commitment to ensure trainee GPs' pay is increased in line with that of junior hospital doctors in the future and increased funding for locum cover for family doctors on maternity, paternity and adoptive leave.

The Northern Workforce Development Confederation has allocated £12,000 to fund recruitment and retention initiatives within primary care in the North East. The flexibilities afforded by the Personal Medical Services pilots allow opportunities for further GP recruitment, particularly as employees rather than independent contractors. Sunderland, which has the highest average GP patient list sizes in England, has been particularly successful in boosting its GP numbers through this scheme.

The measures announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on 5 November to improve the quality of, and expand, GP premises, especially in under-doctored areas, are likely to act as a lever in boosting GP recruitment to hitherto difficult to recruit areas. The northeast health authorities have, in the two years to September 2001, increased GP numbers by over 90 additional GPs, representing an increase of seven per cent. in the GP work force.