DORSET has welcomed plans GPs in training could receive a 'golden hello' of £20,000 if they start their careers in the countryside or on the coast in a bid to boost the number of family doctors in areas with difficulty recruiting.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced a package of measures to help the struggling GP workforce, which includes a one-off payment to try to entice 200 GPs who are beginning their careers to work in areas struggling to secure family doctors - such as rural practices and those by the seaside.

From 2018, surgeries in hard to recruit to areas will benefit from the new £4 million bonus scheme but NHS Dorset CCG said it is too early for any further details.

The Department of Health has also launched a consultation on the regulation of physician associates (PAs) to provide further clarity on the scope of the role.

It is hoped that these PAs - usually science graduates who have undergone two years of intensive training - can help support healthcare teams across the country.

But concerns have previously been raised over plans to use more PAs to perform medical duties including examining patients, diagnosing illnesses and analysing test results. Leading medics have warned the new posts should not be used as a way of replacing doctors.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, said: "We have an incredibly serious shortage of GPs right across the country, but there are some areas that struggle to recruit more than others and often they are in remote and rural areas, so this commitment to incentivise working in these areas is welcome.

"GPs and practice teams in remote and rural areas face unique challenges - but when the service is adequately resourced to meet patients' specific needs, they can also be fantastic and rewarding places to work.

"Ultimately we need NHS England's GP Forward View, which promises £2.4 billion extra for general practice a year and 5,000 more GPs by 2020, urgently and in full so that we can deliver the care our patients need and deserve wherever in the country they live."

Professor Clare Wedderburn, Associate GP Dean HEEW, director of Primary Care Workforce Centre, said: “Dorset’s Primary Care Workforce Centre is already looking at introducing physician associates to work alongside experienced doctors across the county. We are currently talking about setting up an education programme for the new role with the aim of recruiting, training and retaining people locally.

"It is anticipated that the first group of trainees on the Dorset PA programme will commence in 2018/19, and will be delivered by Bournemouth University. This is part of our wider strategy to work across organisational and professional boundaries, develop new roles in the NHS and create opportunities for existing staff to work in different ways and alongside different teams. This will encourage people to live, work and stay in Dorset."