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Independents' Day

I would interrupt retirement to help with coronavirus - if procedures were in place

Dr Kailash Chand

The challenge from Covid-19 to GP services in the UK is enormous and pressing. There is genuine fear that the coronavirus has the potential to be one of the most fatal epidemics to have hit the world for a century, and it’s rapidly increasing in prevalence all over, including UK. With a fast-growing tally of 116 cases in the UK, the British Government, none too soon, published its plan this week.

In the first phase, the aim was to contain the disease, not least to buy time to improve preparedness – critical, given warnings that the NHS is not yet ready for the crisis; in the second, it’s to delay its spread; in the last, it’s to mitigate its impact. Research into the virus, potential treatments and vaccines will run alongside. It also seeks the necessary powers to prepare for and tackle the outbreak, including asking retired medics to return to work, and drafting in medical students.

I’ve been retired for past few years, but like most of my retired colleagues, I would happily interrupt my retirement to help cope with increased workload, provided I get the emergency registration from GMC and emergency indemnity coverage paid by the state. Some colleagues feel their Hippocratic Oath was to help humanity as required.

If the community needs are such that we need to render our services to alleviate suffering, many would be willing to help. It’s not denying that retired GPs have a priceless clinical and communication skills to reduce the pressure on the system during pandemic.

I would interrupt my retirement to help, provided I get the emergency registration from GMC and indemnity

If retired doctors are to assist the NHS in times of emergency, arrangements will have to be made for their timely employment. The BMA and NHS England need to negotiate terms and conditions for return at the earliest opportunity, including exemption from appraisals, revalidations and CQC inspections.

We need to bear in mind many retired doctors’ ages - the morbidity and mortality in older doctors contracting the virus will be higher.

We must also consider their own wellbeing, and whether they would be putting themselves at risk by returning to work for face-to-face consultations. However, retired doctors could prove to be a great asset in professional telephone triage. That would be at a premium, and probably the best and most low risk way to contribute, if they wanted to.

Quick induction, along with refined protocol, would help in uniformity of advice, which needs to be consistent, evidence-based and factual. Since most GPs have experienced similar situations in their professional lives, they could be an asset. Perhaps their knowledge could be valuable to other younger health professionals facing complex situations.

Finally, let’s not forget that thousands of GPs were forced to retire early due to ill-thought-out pensions tax. In order to allow doctors to return to the NHS to help treat Covid-19, our new chancellor must first find a long-term solution to the NHS pensions tax crisis in next week’s Spring Budget, so that working GPs don’t think of retiring early.

It would be more practical to sort out the pensions debacle and get current willing GPs to work more, rather than asking retired (higher-risk) people to return.

Dr Kailash Chand OBE is a retired GP in Tameside

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Readers' comments (12)

  • Kailash, its a great sentiment, but really if we had a properly funded system and GP numbers weren't dropping then your services wouldn't be needed. The government has abused GPs for years via the daily mail and onslaught of negative media coverage, now they want everyone who they've screwed over to come back in their hour of need. The RCGP and BMA should be using this as an opportunity for the public to see the value of General practice, and to demand the CQC inspections be halted, even if just temporarily.... but as you can see they wont...... even in this time of crisis they keep turning the screws....... it will be emotional blackmail next if you don't do their bidding......ultimately Kailash they'll be quite happy to see you back and quite happy if they don't have to pay out your pension when it goes wrong......they are not doing you any favours..... so look after yourself, stay away and keep safe!.....Best wishes

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  • Your final paragraph says it all. Thank you.

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  • Suspending Appraisal and Revalidation, and CQC inspections would free up a lot of staff time; and the clinicians employed would be free to return to clinical work for the duration.

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  • To give safe telephone advice on respiratory illnesses you need to know accurately the temperature, pulse, respiratory rate and oxygen saturation. I have never found it easy to assess these over a telephone. I refer you to NICE guidance last September and the ACC guidance on Acute Repiratory illness

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  • You seem to have forgotten suspending Appraisal and Revalidation, CQC inspections, PCN bureaucracy and the like. That should free up a lot of clinician time, and release those engaged in bureaucracy to return to clinical practice for the he duration.

    Probably a lot safer than unleashing a Dad's Army of doddery old cardies on the public, as it's difficult to imagine anyone with intact faculties choosing to return to the current NHS.

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  • Are you just bored really?

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  • bs

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  • I am retiring because I don't want to do it any more; simple!
    I have a life outside medicine, I don't like being exploited by patients or the NHS, I don't like 'tick-box' QOF, I think CQC are mendacious and pervert aspirations to improve by making unattainable perfection the enemy of good enough and I have had enough of 'could you just...'
    So unless you introduce conscription I am not coming back!

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  • So if the minister asks you to provide him a list of things (you describe as procedures)what would be included in your list.
    Most doctors are nervous I think, as we just do not know how and what will we be required to do?

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  • You would risk not getting a penny of your pension if you do not make it? It is a trap. They are only providing FFP 2 masks. We are not deemed worthy.

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