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NHS England hails returner scheme for 400 GPs coming back to practise

Hundreds of GPs are 'returning to the frontline' as a result of an NHS England programme making it easier to come back to general practice after a career break.

The induction and refresher scheme, launched in 2015 as part of NHS England's 10-point plan to boost the GP workforce, has picked up after a slow start and has now seen 400 GPs coming through, according to a senior NHS England official.

The programme was first launched in March 2015, but underwent an overhaul the following year after Pulse revealed that just one GP out of 108 obtained the score required to return directly to practise without further assessment.

But, speaking yesterday at the Best Practice conference in Birmingham, NHS England primary care director Dr Arvind Madan signalled that two and a half years in, its returns have improved significantly.

He said: 'Our target for numbers on [the induction and refresher scheme] were about 100 in year one. We are actually at around 400 and we’re starting to see the equivalent of those starting to return to the frontline.'

The scheme forms part of a range of measures rolled out by NHS England in a bid to deliver the Government's pledge, made ahead of the 2015 election, for England to have 5,000 more GPs by 2020.

This comes as general practice is suffering a Government-acknowledged workforce crisis, which Dr Madan said was partly down to the profession becoming less attractive to doctors.

But he suggested the £2.4bn General Practice Forward View rescue programme, launched last year, was attempting to change that perception.

He told delegates: 'I think probably one could argue that all of the elements of the GP Forward View are an attempt to try and make general practice attractive again, which is one of the root causes of why we are in this situation.’

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt last week admitted to delegates at the RCGP's annual conference that 'the profession is under considerable pressure at the moment'. And, as part of measures to address the situation, announced an expansion of the Government's £20,000 'golden handshake' scheme to a further 200 GP trainees.

The Government is also hoping to recruit 2,000-3,000 GPs from overseas, via a £100m recruitment programme targeting EU doctors for the main part.

But to date, it is fighting an uphill battle with recent data revealing that there are actually 350 fewer full-time GPs practising in England than there were in 2015.

What does the induction and refresher scheme entail?

GPs who take up the offer of the induction and refresher scheme receive:

  • A £3,500 monthly bursary;
  • £1,250 bursary to help with indemnity costs; and
  • £464 in funding towards GMC membership and DBS checks.

The scheme was the first of the 10 initiatives announced in 2015 to boost recruitment and retention, with then-GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul welcoming the standardised national process.

He said at the time that it would ’enable doctors, who are GPs but they have left the country or they have stopped working, to come back without the bureaucracy they currently face’.

Readers' comments (19)

  • Vinci Ho

    So, what is the lesson learnt? (For NHSE as well as politicians)
    From 1 out of 108 in 2015 to now 400 GPs got through , what have been done differently.
    Is this enough evidence to claim that 5YGPFV actually had made the profession more attractive?
    One can say if there is a political will , there is a political way . But how vigorous was and is this polical will ??

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  • People come, people go. No one stays.

    Like a reverse Royston Vasey.

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  • Cobblers

    Dr Madan is, first and foremost, a politician and politicians take the best possible spin from figures. More information is needed.

    Of these 400 how many were full time and what exactly does 'front line' mean? I know what it means to me but to a politician it may mean anything other than coalface GP.

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  • THE USUAL "BULLSHIT" AND COUNTER SPIN.
    THIS IS JUST FOR THE DAILY NUTTER.

    HEADLINE "GREEDY BASTARDS RETURN TO LUCRATIVE GENERAL PRACTICE"..DAILY NUTTER

    THOSE WHO HAVE PLAYED A PART IN WRECKING GENERAL PRACTICE SHOULD BE "ARRESTED" AND CHARGED WITH "CRIMES AGAINST THE STATE"....BUT SADLY THESE MORAL CRIMES IN THE UK ALWAYS GO UNPUNISHED.

    THE LAWS ON COPORATE MANSLAUGHTER SHOULD BE CHANGED SUCH THAT THE CHARGE OF "GROSS NEGLIGENCE MANSLAUGHTER" COULD BE MADE AGAINST SENIOR POLITICIANS AND WE CAN SEE JUSTICE DELIVERED....THIS WILL NEVER HAPPEN BECAUSE IN REALITY WE DO NOT LIVE IN A DEMOCRATIC AND ACCOUNTABLE SOCIETY.

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  • Spot on LMS

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  • A useful initiative But still too little too late! Hunt will not achy required numbers quickly enough.

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  • I almost went bankrupt in 2015 while doing the 'new' Returner scheme. I'm still paying off the debts, and will have to take out a loan to pay my tax bill in January. The exams are a farce, and it's a disgrace that the bandings are set so virtually no experienced GPs will get straight through.

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  • AlanAlmond

    The last sentence in the last comment is absolutely spot on. I suspect it might get moderated...perhaps not...anyway in the event you don’t get to read it, it read/reads something along the lines of ‘go forth and multiply NHS England’
    I couldn’t agree more.

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  • Vinci Ho

    I still think the politician climate changes matter. Considering the level of arrogance of NHSE on its earlier days , coalition and Cameron's governments, there was no surprise that it wanted to do absolutely f*** all to save general practice. But that was then , it is now . What goes around, what comes around. This current PM had to succumb to pressure from strong oppositions coming from all directions. Scrapping the phone charges on Universal Benefit helpline is phenomenal. NHSE cannot say it has nothing to do with what is going on in this GP crisis.
    I always believe those who do harm on others will have their penance (Hunt's favourite word!)ultimately, just a matter of time........

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  • This is NONSENSE. I know a returner who had the worst time possible last year. They could not have made it more difficult and took 11 months to get on the performers list. It cost a fortune. She worked for free for 7 months before any reimbursement came in. If it was not for the support of her husband she would have given up.

    NHS england should be rebuked for the administration of the returners scheme because as far as I can see it is utterly shambolic.

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