Health bosses defend ‘golden hellos’ for doctors to work in Sunderland - and hint they could be offered to nurses

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Sunderland health bosses have defended a ‘golden hello’ scheme to attract GPs to the city – and hinted a similar initiative could be extended to nurses.

Last year, more than £300,000 was handed out to 19 family doctors who agreed to take up a post for a minimum of three years in a Sunderland practice.

Senior members of Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) were at Sunderland City Council’s health and wellbeing scrutiny committee meeting to discuss their plans for this year, which could include an extension of the incentive.

“We’ve been offering ‘golden hellos’ to attract GPs into Sunderland,” said David Chandler, the CCG’s chief finance officer.

“That’s been a very successful scheme, so far as we can tell, and we may do it again this year.”

On the issue of recruitment, Coun Juliana Heron asked whether similar measures were being taken to boost the number of nurses in the city.

Mr Chandler replied various options were being considered to aid retention of staff, as well as recruitment.

He told the panel nothing had been developed enough to be presented to councillors, but did not rule out the prospect of nurses getting their own version of the ‘golden hello’ scheme.

He added: “It’s just as important to have nurses as well as doctors, and nurses can do a lot of work that was historically done by GPs.

“It’s a bit easier to attract nurses than doctors, but not much easier.”

Councillors also quizzed health chiefs on what impact expected extra government funding for the health service could have and where it would be spent.

CCG chief officer David Gallagher said it was important the cash was used to tackle sustainability issues, such as staffing, if it was to have long-term benefits.

He said: “Part of the reason the NHS struggles is all we’ve done is add bits of funding and we need to step back.

“With all the money in the world the workforce situation will not improve tomorrow, or next week, or even in two years’ time, but hopefully we will target it so we get something sustainable.”

James Harrison, Local Democracy Reporting Service