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Independents' Day

GPs wishing to return to NHS for pandemic caught up in red tape for weeks

Red tape is holding up the process of returning retired GPs to the workforce during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, Pulse has learned.

GPs have told Pulse that since being re-registered with the GMC in March and filling out an NHS England application to be returned to the performers' list, they have heard nothing.

One GP, who put life plans on hold to return to the NHS, described the process as 'a deafening silence', while the union Doctors in Unite deplored NHS England's decision to put Capita in charge of administering the scheme to return retired doctors.

NHS England said applications were being processed 'as quickly as possible', while Capita - the company that handles primary care support services - claimed it had 'mobilised resources very quickly'.

Dr Dominique Thompson, who retired from practising as a GP in Bristol in 2017, said: ‘It’s a deafening silence, which is so frustrating. I just had an email from a "no reply" address more than three weeks ago, saying I would hear in three days.’

Dr Thompson, who brought her wedding forward to focus on the pandemic, continued: ‘I don’t understand why they haven’t at least sent us all some online training to do, while they do our DBS checks.’

Her latest correspondence was an automated message from NHS England on 30 March.

It said: ‘Some of you may have already been contacted by our Regional Bring Back Staff hub, but just in case you haven’t heard from us, we are sorry about this and we are writing to reassure you that a member of one of our regional teams will be in touch with you within the next three days.'

The message urged GPs not to try to respond to the email inbox, which is 'not managed', adding: ‘Please don’t be discouraged - we will be in touch.’

Dr Una Coales, who ceased clinical practise as a GP in 2015, is also awaiting news, having been informed almost a month ago that her temporary GMC registration had been granted.

She said: ‘On 27 March, the GMC emailed that my registration has been restored, and that my name and contact details have been given to the health service in the country of my registered address and they have let them know I'm on the GP register.

‘I completed the linked survey about returning to work, and am still waiting for the next steps. 

'All I know is I'm to expect to be contacted according to the GMC email dated 27 March. But I have not received anything from NHS England as of today (20 April).’

The Government formally launched the ‘NHS needs you’ campaign over a month ago on 20 March, urging more than 65,000 former doctors and nurses - including 5,000 GPs - to return to work to support the efforts against coronavirus.

An NHS England spokesperson told Pulse: ‘The NHS is now processing these thousands of applications as quickly as possible, making sure returners are matched to where their skills are most needed, so returning staff can get back on the front line and start doing what they do best.’

A Capita spokesperson said: ‘We can confirm that we are supporting the NHS to help vet and onboard thousands of returning nurses and doctors as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.

‘At Capita, we’ve been responding to a number of requests from the Government to assist in the fightback against the coronavirus.

‘In this instance, we mobilised resources very quickly to respond to a critical NHS need; and have already enabled thousands of returning clinicians to be deployed on the frontline.’

It comes amid a long back catalogue of issues with primary care support service failures since they were outsourced in 2015, including failures to update GP pension records and clinical correspondence going missing.

Doctors in Unite communications officer Dr Tom Riddington said: 'We deplore the involvement of Capita in the administration of retired doctors’ return to the NHS workforce.

'Reported delays of over two weeks to inclusion back on the performers’ list, while NHS 111 remains overwhelmed, are unacceptable.'

The GMC has re-registered more than 9,100 former GPs, among over 19,000 doctors, although doctors need to opt in to actually return to work.

NHS England said on 12 April that almost 5,000 former staff, including doctors, nurses and midwives, have rejoined the NHS after coming out of retirement, while a further 10,000 have completed checks.

Readers' comments (40)

  • Volunteered four weeks ago still not been given a new email address as apparently old one not acceptable have to do the mandatory training safeguarding equality etc although done it before perhaps they don’t need us after all hence why all gone quiet

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  • Presumably Nhs England and capita can tell us the average time it is taking to process and the numbers they have processed. that would be more helpful than the general statements they’ve given

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  • It is an obstacle course!
    The only one left for me is the DBS check tick from the Home Office. IT acquisition was tricky but the helpline staff were attentive in problem solving, whilst being a little in the dark and reading from ever changing manuals. I gather the new CCAS rostering programme is not functioning

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  • I have registered three ways- NHS Scotland official route (they did a new PVG quite quickly ,checked my ID, put me on PL and since then nothing), NHS England (waited for ages , and yesterday they checked my ID and yet despite my former employer trying to get me back faster I am still stuck) and finally a locum agency "working officially for NHSE", who sent me 32 forms to fill up- they lie untouched! I have also volunteered with Red Cross and National Volunteer system - result = SFA. I get the sense that this whole process is just smoke and mirrors to make government and NHS etc look good while the usual NHS stalwarts on the front line work themselves to the bone and us old lags stay at home frustrated.

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  • I presume you have all the report elewhere in this journal that suggests that all over sixty should stay home! ??

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  • I applied to return to work within 24 hours of receiving the initial email and completed the on-line survey. My husband in the meantime, has another non medical job and so delayed applying until more than 3 weeks later. Within 5 days he received another on line form. I therefore reapplied and heard within 24 hours. Now going through the tedious process of the CCAS website. Many documents to upload and then you are declined at the time of the booked video verification as the documents do not comply. Their system does not appear to be able to read dates and claims documents expired e.g.passport at midnight on the day they are uploaded. My husband booked his video call at 08.20 this morning but no-one on the other end. We are close to giving up.

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  • I got my registration back on 27 March and commenced working on 30 March on the understanding from information from the BMA that I would be covered by the new indemnity scheme. I Sent off my returner form o 1 April (most appropriate) and received a secondary form 11 April to declare I was not under any investigations, which was duly returned. Follow u enquiries lead me to be believe that subsequent registration on the performers list was to be applied locally, and then , no , centrally , and then no , locally ....
    This more evidence, if any were needed, that NHSE and its subsidiary organisations are simply not fit for purpose, having been a brake on the development of innovation and flexibility within the NHS.
    I hope when this is all over that our representative organisations publicise the failures of our quangocracies and push for a clinician led NHS.

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  • reply to Dr Death
    CCAS is sitting at home assessing patients by telephone

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  • Bye and thanks for all the fish

    From receiving the initial GMC email telling me I was re-registered it took 10 days to get back on the Performers List and a further 13 days (including Easter Weekend) to finally get all the software and I.T. sorted to start working from home for CCAS. I nearly gave up, more than once, but persevered as I wanted to help.

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  • In Face-2-Face terms...

    This could be the one instance where RED TAPE SAVES LIVES !

    I can see the headlines now

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