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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 January 2006, 04:18 GMT
Poor-area GPs 'deserve more pay'
Stethoscope in GP's pocket
Many deprived areas have low numbers of family doctors
GPs should be paid more for working in deprived areas to help tackle health inequalities, a think tank has said.

The Institute for Public Policy Research said doctors should be paid according to their patients' needs, as an incentive to work in such areas.

It said many of the most deprived areas had the poorest health records and also the lowest number of GPs.

Some doctors welcomed the idea, but said it was also important to improve people's knowledge about health issues.

White paper

The call by the institute (IPPR) comes a day before the government publishes a white paper expected to include proposals for more healthcare in the community.

Jessica Allen, IPPR senior research fellow, said: "GPs should be paid according to the needs of the patients they serve so they are encouraged to locate in deprived areas.

"At present most GPs are paid a salary or are funded according to historical patterns, rather than on the basis of the health needs of their population."

What we have come up with is the idea, we call it the NHS life check, which you would do at key points in your life.
Patricia Hewitt, Health Secretary

Dr Laurence Buckman, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association, said newly qualified doctors should be encouraged to work in deprived areas, where they could "found new practices and develop new ways of working".

Dr Nadeem Nayer, a GP in Castleford, West Yorkshire, said paying doctors more to work in such areas was only part of the solution.

"It is important to target people in deprived areas to get their education about health up to scratch," he told BBC Radio Five Live.

"If we don't impart that to them and give them the chance to take the responsibility, then there is something going wrong."

Supermarket check-up

The IPPR also said there should be more health services available in places such as supermarkets, to provide an alternative to emergency services, which are often used only because a patient's problems have not been dealt with earlier.

Last week Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said differences in financial debt for health services between deprived and affluent areas revealed inequalities in access to healthcare.

She suggested deprived regions had smaller debts than better off ones, because more affluent areas had more GPs, who therefore made more hospital referrals, pushing up costs.

She said costs in poorer areas were largely driven by emergency care, caused by health problems not having been dealt with earlier.

The IPPR also said the government should provide more help with transport for less mobile patients.

Ms Allen said: "Almost one-and-a-half million people a year miss, turn down or do not seek healthcare because of lack of access to transport."

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