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Practices to be given £8,000 annual grant to take on GP returners

GPs returning from a period away from UK general practice will be given bursaries of £2,300 a month to work in supervised practices while waiting to be put on the performers list.

NHS England’s new national GP returner scheme, launched today, will also give practices a grant of £8,000 a year pro rata for taking the GPs – the same as training practices are given.

The programme is intended to replace the current regional variation in schemes, which sees some returners being paid nothing or token amounts of £50 a week while going through the process of returning to the performers list.

As part of the scheme, which was trailed by Pulse, NHS England will also simplify the process of returning to the performers list by creating a single contact point.

The scheme, worked up with Health Education England (HEE), the RCGP and the BMA, is the first of NHS England’s ten strategies aimed at increasing GP numbers to be implemented.

As it currently stands, there is huge variation across the country in the process that GPs wishing to return to the performers’ list have to go through, involving the local education and training board and the NHS England area team.

However, under the new scheme, NHS England said the GP National Recruitment Office would offer a ‘single point of contact’ to GPs joining or rejoining the service.

The programme will be available to GPs who have taken time out, for example to practise abroad or to raise a family, but who have previously been on the GMC register and on the NHS England National Performers List (NPL), as well as GPs qualified overseas with no NHS experience.

Unlike the present situation, GP will also be able to apply from overseas before they either return or come to the UK.

The scheme will offer a bursary of £2,300 per month and participants will be given a supervised placement in general practice, NHS England said.

A joint statement by NHS England, HEE, the BMA and the RCGP said: ‘The new scheme will standardise pre-existing schemes providing a consistent single point of contact, via the GP National Recruitment Office, to guide doctors through the system. Doctors will also be able to apply from overseas, before they either return or come to the UK.

‘The scheme will offer a bursary of £2,300 per month and participants will be given a supervised placement in general practice. The placements will be tailored to the needs of doctors to ensure they have the confidence and knowledge needed to be a GP.’

The national returners programme, first recommended in the GP taskforce report, comes after the RCGP warned last year that more than 5,000 doctors who have emigrated or chosen to take early retirement are unable to return to the GP workforce as a result of ‘red tape’.

RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker said the announcement was ‘encouraging’ after the college’s fight against red tape.

She said: ‘It costs nearly £250,000 to train a GP so it is an absolute travesty for patients and a huge waste of public money if we then lose them to the profession as a result of red tape and outdated regulations.

‘We are confident that if people know that the process is to be simplified and streamlined across the country, there will be many more trained GPs who would consider returning to frontline patient care in the UK, helping to ease the intense workforce and workload pressures currently facing general practice.’

GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul told Pulse: ‘The practice would get the equivalent of a trainer’s grant, which is just over £8,000 annually, pro rata for how long you have the returner for.

‘What I want to be clear on is that we certainly would have liked a higher level of funding, however compared to the current system this does represent a significant improvement.’

He added: ‘The announcement of a new, properly funded induction and refresher scheme is a positive step forward that will be good news for doctors who are seeking a route back into full-time or part-time work as a GP.’

HEE medical director and director of education and quality, Professor Wendy Reid, said: ‘This programme removes some of the barriers seen before for doctors who have had a career break or worked overseas to be supported to return to work in general practice. The scheme aims to bridge the gap between the skills and experience that doctors have had, and those that are required for safe and effective primary care practice in the NHS in England.

‘It also recognises the different learning needs of those returning from work overseas over those from a career break, and those who are seeking orientation and adjustment to English primary care.’

NHS England’s overall GP workforce strategy also includes measures such as incentivising older GPs to stay on working, offering financial incentives to new GPs for working in under-doctored areas and a marketing campaign to medical students.

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Readers' comments (38)

  • I think this is a very very small step in the right direction;

    As a young early 30's ex UK GP partner that left a couple of years back I would like to add some of my experiences to this column;

    One of the things that i've noticed about other countries is that when they want to entice you to do something they offer real incentives and PAY YOU PROPERLY; hence GP salaries are a reflection in places such as OZ/ new Zealand etc. You are treated as a professional and paid to attend certain meetings and actually get fed properly too if it occurs through your lunch or evening meal times; You feel valued;

    The British on the other hand are a totally different breed; (Im born, raised and educated in Britain and hold a UK passport so before anyone accuses me of racialism, go forth and multiply). If they want you to do something they flog you, bully you and beat you into submission; They frighten you with an autocratic regulator that could remove your license at a whim and shame you publically in the media. Every pay cut is then spun as a sensationalist epic stating that you still earn x times more than joe public so your vilified in the public psyche; I used to have to endure endless pointless meetings and past the sell by date sarnies and bowls of gruel when working there on a good day; on a bad day I starved. The class distinction that Brits live under is truly appalling; Essentially as a Brit I felt like a helpless, useless PLEBIAN.

    2 grand a month is better than nothing but its still far less than other places will give you to come and work for them if you hold the right qualifications. Until the rates are equitable I feel very few people will make the return trip home; just my two pence worth mind you.

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  • The only people this will appeal to is perhaps the women who have taken several years off to have children and decides to return to work.
    Anyone else - forget it. I have recently retired as a partner and although I haven't entirely ruled out doing some work in the future if I reach a point where I have to re 're-trained' it obviously just won't happen.

    Those in Oz etc - will look and laugh. It certainly won't entice the vaguely interested to come back.

    However its better than no bread - just.

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  • The focus should be on retention first, that's where the big issue is. Are returners are definately going to want partnerships to plug the gaps???

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  • Dr 516pm, you hit the nail on the head. Two pence worth you say? It's about what we're worth here.

    £2300 a month? I can earn that in two days in Australia without breaking a sweat.

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  • Not a chance. I am happily retired and wouldn't be tempted back even for £250K a year (and a day off each week).

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  • absolutely pathetic

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  • Isn't the thinking behind this a bit confused?
    There useed to be a 'retainer' scheme whereby GPs taking a career break (often/usually because of family commitments) could work for a few sessions a week to allow them to return to longer hours in the future, and the practices involved were supported.
    This was abolished: not sure of the rationale (if any) of putting obstacles in the way of GPs - mainly women - who would normally return to general practice in the future.
    Does the scheme - and the funding - include expenses and revalidation/license to practice?
    The returner will need medical idemnity insurance (? approx 4 months of the funding p.a.), GMC registration and revalidation-> a "license to practice".
    How will this be managed?
    Just curious.

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  • i am sure many GPs would join in -not sure of return

    its no sweat to work as locums

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  • Retention- Im 56.In Wales, Senior partner and on the verge of bailing out. Just waiting for my pension estimate .
    I could afford it. What happened to golden handcuffs . We need them now to retain the likes of me

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  • Well as a recently returned GP from Australia this is a step in the right direction. It took me 12 months to restore my name to the GMC register, complete the Ethics MCq and the Clinical OSCE; 3 international return air fares at around £3000 plus £2000 fees; 3 weeks unpaid leave from my Australian practice; 6 weeks waiting for police clearance in UK; £1200 medical indemnity; £2000 to buy a cheap car and pay for rental deposit and another £3000 to return my family and our suitcases. As I left full time GP work in Australia and worked a GP supervisor and examiner for the Australian college and passed my returner exams, I was allowed to complete only a 3 month supervision period and received £500 a week working in Wales.
    I returned to help my Mother who has dementia.
    Are the proposed changes enough? No.
    The UK seriously needs to rethink not for profit recruitment with staff to assist, relocate and integrate returning GPs. I have not been out of practice but have had acclimatise to NHs specific changes. A lot of these changes could be introduced through online learning programmes which could be done from overseas - so much more useful than making me answer questions concerning managing ridiculous hospital ward scenarios after a 24 hour flight.
    There is no Commonwealth collegiality yet there is so much in common with GP training pathways in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa.
    The Uk seriously need some good spirited adventurous colonial GPs who would work in some of our undesirable backwaters and be happy to skip up to Glasgow for the weekend!
    Welcome back UK returners with better remuneration and consideration of their current working situation and change the GMc restrictions on Commonwealth GPs working alongside us. To compete with Australia, schemes will need to offer accommodation and car packages and contracts for 6-12 months. Training schemes should be looking at registrar swaps with our Commonwealth cousins and then perhaps we can look at balancing the traffic of GPs which is one way at present. Many of my registrars and Aussie colleagues would love to come over to the Uk to work - its a travel thing and the Queen still rules Brittania...

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