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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