Initiatives to attract more doctors and healthcare professionals to work in Sunderland have been hailed a success, after 39 staff chose to start their career in the city.
With the NHS facing a national shortage of qualified staff, the projects led by NHS Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) have helped to increase the number of GPs in the city to 189 – a big increase from 152 a year earlier.
A key part of this success is the GP Career Start scheme, which gives newly qualified GPs the chance to work in a local practice for two years, while spending a day each week on further study of a specialised area of their choice.
The scheme’s first year attracted ten new GPs to the city, with five of these choosing to put down roots by taking up permanent posts afterwards. A total of 16 have been recruited so far.
Other schemes include a career start programme for practice nurses, and a ‘golden hello’ offer for new GPs who commit to at least three years in the area.
Dr Ian Pattison, Chair of NHS Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “As a local GP I know that Sunderland is a great place to live and work, and we want newly qualified GPs to see just how much our area has to offer.
“Recruitment is an issue for the NHS right across the country, but we are making real progress in attracting well-qualified GPs to ensure our services are in a strong position for the future.
“Already we are seeing many of these GPs choosing to build their career in Sunderland for the longer term, which is great news for patients.”
With other healthcare roles also facing staff shortages, similar schemes have successfully attracted 14 new practice nurses and nine healthcare assistants, with more on the way.
Dr Cindy Kelly is a GP at Barmston Medical Centre in Washington. She came to the area as part of the career start scheme after completing her GP training, and has worked in the area for over two years.
Dr Kelly said: “The career start scheme has been a great opportunity to start my career as a GP. The medical education sessions mean that I’m given the opportunity to develop my specialist skills in an area of care that I’m passionate about, with the full support of my colleagues.
“I didn’t know a great deal about Sunderland before coming here on my placement, but I have found it to be a very friendly and welcoming area and I thoroughly enjoy working here.”
Sunderland is also part of a regionwide bid to attract qualified GPs from abroad to help address staff shortages.
This scheme includes a robust process to support GPs so that they are able to work effectively in the NHS, including a three-month period observing in a local practice as well as a period of induction and refresher training.
A total of 26 GPs have come to the city through the ‘golden hello’ scheme, which recruits GPs new to the area who commit to a minimum three-year contract in Sunderland.
The CCG is also working closely with Sunderland University, which is opening a medical school later this year. The first 50 students will start its GP training scheme in September, with 100 new students expected in 2020. GPs often choose to stay in the area where they trained, so this is another important development for Sunderland’s NHS.