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GP returners set for funding boost as NHS overhauls scheme

GPs who return to the NHS after a career break will be given monthly bursaries of £3,500 while retraining, an increase of more than £1,000 a month on the existing scheme.

NHS England announced the overhaul of the ‘Induction and Refresher scheme’, which provides financial and administrative support for GPs coming to NHS practice after a career break or from overseas, after Pulse revealed significant problems with the original scheme.

The monthly bursary to support GPs on their supervised placement has been increased from £2,300 to £3,500 and there will be new funding to help cover indemnity and professional registration costs.

It will also provide returning GPs with dedicated support to help complete paperwork, occupational health assessments and coordinating their placements.

NHS England has also said that the scheme will be more ‘flexible’, and it has changed requirements so that ‘suitably trained and experieinced’ GPs don’t need to go through its processes.

The BMA has been involved in the redesign and GP leaders today welcomed the announcement.

This comes after Pulse revealed that entry exams which were supposed to allow UK trained GPs to return directly to practise were actually forcing 99% of doctors to undergo a supervised placement.

The Induction and Refresher scheme was one of the measures in NHS England’s ten-point plan for GP workforce, intended to address the mixed bag of returners’ schemes around the country – some of which had no funding support.

However, GP leaders raised concerns early on that, although it was adding to the overall pool of GPs, just two doctors had signed up to return in England’s most under-recruited areas.

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The funding available under the scheme will now include:

  • £3,500 a month bursary, for new and current GPs on the scheme
  • A £1,250 bursary, available until 31 October 2018, to help with indemnity costs.
  • In the same period, £464 in dunding towards GMC membership and DBS checks.
  • Scrapping of the £1,000 assessment fees for applicants, which was previously reimbursed upon completion of the scheme.
  • New funding so that assessments can be run bi-monthly instead of quarterly

Introduced in March 2015, the scheme requires qualified GP returners to undergo an initial assessment and those meeting the top grade (Band 5) could return directly to practice.

Those who achieved a Band 4 or Band 3 score in the exams have to do placements of three, and six months, respectively

But Pulse revealed correspondence showing the programme had intented that ‘a GP with previous UK experience in the NHS as a GP who has been working overseas in an equivalent primary system to the NHS would normally be screened out of needing further assessments.’

Pulse analysed early figures and found just one GP of the 108 who had completed the assessments had returned to practice, while Bristol GP Dr Colin Jacoby told Pulse he had lost £60,000 in earnings as a result of the six month placement.

Another GP in the doctor-strapped North East warned she had been put off returning because the bursary wasn’t enough to support her family.

But now, NHS England has said that ‘over the next few months’ they will develop a new framework ‘so that suitably qualified and experienced doctors can be added to the Medical Performers List without the need to complete the I&R process.’

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, BMA lead on education, training and workforce, said: ‘One of the key factors undermining general practice in the past few years has been the mounting workforce crisis that has left many GP practices without enough GPs to deliver an effective service to patients. An important issue has been the ongoing and completely unavoidable barriers that are put in place of GPs returning to work after taking a career breaks or leaving the NHS for short periods. We cannot afford to have highly skilled professionals sitting on the side lines at a time when patient demand is rocketing.

‘The BMA has worked with the government to design fresh induction and retention schemes that are properly funded. The latest revisions announced today are to be welcomed as a further step forward in this process. The BMA’s GP committee will not rest until we make the process of working in NHS general practice a straight forward one and an attractive one.”

Rosamond Roughton, NHS England’s director of commissioning, said: ‘We are responding directly to the concerns of the profession and implementing immediate, practical ways of helping GPs and those returning to a profession that remains one of the most rewarding careers in medicine.’