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Put yourself in the position of a minister in this Government. Happily, you don’t need to concern yourself with the fallout of the Owen Paterson affair or anything else. Instead, you need only apply yourself to one question: given that the nation faces a shortage of GPs, should you make becoming a GP a) more attractive or b) less attractive?

Take your time, show your working. Decided?

If you answered a) then alas, it looks like it’s a career in mere punditry for you. For it seems that the Government is well-disposed towards b) – at least if media reports are correct. From the Times:

“GPs would be barred from taking new jobs in affluent areas to force them to work in deprived towns under plans being considered by the government. A regulator tasked with restricting where family doctors can set up would improve health in poorer parts of the country that have far fewer doctors, in a plan put forward by a former senior official.”

As I’ve written elsewhere, resorting to this sort of thinking suggests that ‘levelling up’ is undergoing (and from a very low base) a sort of intellectual collapse. In place of any positive, centre-right vision for delivering a more balanced economy, we’re back to trying to brute-force public sector resources in instead.

However, whilst it’s one thing to do this with actual public sector jobs, GP practises aren’t part of the NHS. They’re private businesses which undertake NHS work. Trying to mandate where they can set up, and in what quantities, thus crosses a somewhat deeper intellectual Rubicon than it might first appear.

Even setting that to one side, on a more practical level the Government is already not on track to hit its GP recruitment targets. As the Health Secretary has noted, this shortage is already biting, and putting more pressure on other parts of the system such as A&E units.

If the £20,000 bonus currently being offered to GPs to set up in areas with shortages isn’t enough solving the problem, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to fear that trying to force people to do what hard cash won’t induce them to do will not harm recruitment and worsen the shortage.

Perhaps it makes more sense to a mind that has had to convince itself that the solution to the housing shortage isn’t building more houses.