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Independents' Day

Returner scheme attracts 60 new GPs - but only two in areas with worst shortages

Exclusive The new scheme to tempt GPs back to practice has attracted 60 new GPs since March, although Pulse has learnt it has only attracted a single GP to each of the two areas in England with the highest vacancy rates for GP trainees.

Figures obtained by Pulse reveal that the North East of England and East Midlands - which still have 49% and 43% of GP training places vacant for this year’s intake - have only managed to attract a single GP returner each since the scheme was set up.

In comparison, London - which has only 2% of training places vacant - has attracted 18 GPs, while the rest of the South of England attracted 23 GPs.

The scheme, launched in March this year, was designed to alleviate the GP workforce crisis as part of Health Education England’s ten-point plan.

But GP leaders in the regions said that southern areas attracting GPs is ‘no comfort to the majority of us’.

The scheme was set up after RCGP said that as many as 5,000 GPs are prevented from returning to work because of ‘red tape’.

It was designed to reduce red tape by bringing in national standards for re-entry to general practice to replace the differing standards set by education bodies across England, and included a bursary of £2,300 a month for returners to undergo supervised placements with a practice and funding for practices to take on returners.

In his new deal speech, Jeremy Hunt highlighted more than 50 GPs had ‘already taken up the offer’ to return.

Mr Hunt said: ‘By working with the profession we will improve routes back to general practice for experienced doctors. An induction and “returner” scheme for those returning to the profession from overseas or from a career break has been refreshed and now includes support with the cost of returning to general practice. Over 50 GPs have already taken up this offer.’

Health Education England figures from July show that 60 GPs have registered with the scheme, of which 55 had sat the multiple choice entry test in June, and 45 of these had passed on to further assessments.

But Dr Peter Holden, a GP in Derbyshire and a former GP negotiator, said: ‘This is just one component in the whole business of workforce. But actually, 60 GPs is a drop in the ocean. The fact that it’s all biased to London, the south west and the south coast is of no comfort to the majority of us.’

Speaking to Pulse, Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, chair of the GPC’s education, training and workforce committee, welcomed the scheme and especially the introduction of national standards, but added that it is unlikely to help attract GPs to the worst-affected areas.

He said: ‘If it’s a GP from London with a family, kids, so on and so forth, saying “do you want to come back to be a GP? Please do it in Scunthorpe” - it’s not going to happen. So you’re adding them to the total number of doctors, rather than under doctored areas.’

Where GPs are returning


East Midlands 1

East of England 7

West Midlands 3

Kent Sussex and Surrey 6

London (inc 3 areas) 18

North West 4

North of England 1

Thames Valley 5

South West 7

Wessex 5

Yorkshire and Humber 3

Readers' comments (23)

  • Hilarious.

    This is a £2000+ bung to GPs that were due to come back anyway. Does anyone REALLY think that this tiny amount of money and trivial overall package would convince someone to come back?

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  • Offer more money!!!

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  • £2000 a month to replace your £10000+ a month in Australia.


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  • They will not return to MCQ and £2000/month.

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  • East Midlands scored 1 v GPs retired in the last year score of 25

    Great football match though, a few own goals !

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  • Basically capital markets will always dictate. So long as pay, work load, cost of living and environment is better elsewhere GPs will walk.

    Exactly the same applies to physicians assistants and practice nurses

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  • Pay peanuts and put people in terrible work conditions and what do you get?

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  • Stop playing it down.60 is better than nothing

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  • Once a brand has been tarnished one has to move mountains in order to make that brand popular again. I can't see any mountains let alone moving ones, has anyone else? It has taken Sainsburys more than 15 years to slowly pull back against its main rival, Tesco's. And that only really happened because of a deterioration in Tesco's brand. So if the government isn't prepared to improve pay and work conditions in UK general practice perhaps it should be looking for Australia New Zealand and Canada to worsen their's. I wouldn't be surprised if political meetings are not going on right now to look at this.

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  • GPs used to be respected. Now we are assumed to be criminal or incompetent until proven otherwise, and used as a waste basket for all and sundry's problems.

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  • I'm getting confused.
    There used to be a Retainer scheme, whereby GPs could reduce their hours to a couple of sessions a week and keep up to date when taking a career break.
    This was abolished as being solely for the benefit of practices and the retainees - so something the NHS should not support.
    Now there is a replacement - but only for Returnees: are there any provisions for retaining GPs?

    btw I agree that this program appears to be more about image than reality ..

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  • Like someone said General Practice is the anal canal of the NHS and GPs are coprophiliacs

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  • Remind me how GPs many JH have promised again?

    Oh well, he's managed to fulfill 1.2% of his promise now.

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  • great.

    only another 9940 needed.

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  • need another as i am off - resignation letter done today

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  • I am on the Jersey performers list and want to come back but can not because of the MCQ. my score after working for 33 years in the NHS means that I need to have 3 months extra training to learn how to cope with the NHS. I am appraised via Wessex, and practice exactly the same way as in uk, except the funding is different as patients pay for their tx and the states makes up half of the cost and we have 15 mins consultations. I need to learn what exactly. the I and R scheme is a bar to recruiting GP's and the bar needs to be lowered. also if you are Welsh you can not come back either, what an insult to the Welsh GP's as they are second class GP's?!!!!

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  • Peter Swinyard

    I have just looked at the specification for the MCQ test. I wonder how many of us established GP principals would pass this without being told we had a development need?
    Has it been tried on the crusties (GPs age 50-65)?
    Dare you?
    We'd all have to quit!!!

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  • Have you got a link for the mcq test ?

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  • You simply couldn't afford to pay me what I'm worth to return to the uk.
    Anyway some things are more important, such as self worth, control of your own destiny and being able to actually do the job you love. None of which are possible in England. It's lucky NHSE are actually a bunch of cheap skates because if they did have a serious budget to recruit they'd probably manage to blackmail folk with cash and continue to run a tyrannical regime.

    The mentality of these autocrats is much more of a determining factor in keeping me abroad. Not to mention the entitled behaviour of an ungrateful brainwashed public over there in the uk.

    You can keep your pennies! I'm away making a real life for myself far far far beyond your control! Good riddance

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  • to be fair - i didn't think they would get anyone !

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  • I am one of these 60 GPs. Although the bursary is small the previous option was not workable for me. Prior to this scheme getting back to work would have meant working for free for 6 months and paying the surgery £4,000 trainers fee. I had to borrow money to cover the simulated surgery exam but I wouldn't have been able to cover 6 months without income whilst still paying MDU etc.

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  • If you want to attract GPs to your area, you need local solutions. People will return for family or personal reasons not the salary. It cost me over £30k to return and complete the scheme and relocate my family. E.g. areas of need offer furnished family accommodation at nominal rent and use of a car for the duration of the scheme in return for an agreement to work for a similar period after obtaining registration; offering support to GPs still overseas with the Performers List process; airfare remuneration in return for time at practice - just look at what Aussie have done in reverse. Yes it costs money but you have a chance at successful recruitment. Also campaign to get rid of exam - big deterrent for UK trained GPs who have been in practice - the things that change are all admin stuff you learn on job, not how to manage a febrile child...

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  • I am also one of the 60. Whilst the practice I am attached to have been supportive the rest of the scheme has been a poorly supported, poorly organised, frustrating, bureaucratic nightmare. It took me 15 months from deciding to return to getting a placement because of all the hoops I had to jump. They need to get way more serious about properly supporting people through this process. I have a couple of months to go and it has been a serious test of determination and perseverance! I wouldn't recommend the English scheme in it's current form to anyone. Would love to provide formal constructive feedback to someone who was interested, but so far no one has been!

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