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Nearly 800 GPs have applied to join national return to practise scheme

A national scheme run by NHS England and Health Education England to attract GPs back into practices has seen nearly 800 sign up so far.

The Induction and Refresher scheme, which offers financial and practical support, has now seen 279 GPs fully complete the programme and enter back into the general practice workforce since it started in 2015.

Last week, a new campaign was launched to promote the returning GPs scheme. It includes a new brochure outlining the routes that qualified family doctors can take to get back to general practice, and tells GPs they will be ‘coming back to one of the most rewarding, challenging, flexible and diverse careers in medicine’.

The Induction and Refresher scheme was upgraded in 2016 with a new package of support and introduced a target of recruiting 500 GPs by 2020.

The lastest figures from the end of 2018 show 785 GPs have applied to join the scheme and of those, 279 have completed the programme and are fully integrated into general practice workforce.

Split into three routes, GPs can undertake the refresher route, which is for GPs who’ve been out of the NHS for over two years; the portfolio route, which is aimed at UK-qualified GPs practising abroad; or the induction route, which is for overseas medically-qualified GPs who want to practice in the UK.

GP Dr Kevin Weaver, who took early retirement in 2013 to look after his wife, now works two days a week as a locum in Sunderland.

He said: ‘I’ve always felt privileged being a GP and missed the challenge. I’m very glad that I came back because not a day goes by when I don’t get great feedback from patients. It’s highly rewarding.

‘I don’t think I would have come back without the scheme. It provided financial support, a clinical placement and an educational supervisor. It equips you for coming back, because things have changed over the last six years.’

Health Education England GP lead Professor Simon Gregory said it is important for GPs who have career breaks to ‘safely and confidently return to practice and feel supported in doing so’.

He said: ‘The changes made to the scheme in recent years have made a huge difference and it has been great to welcome so many colleagues back and caring for patients.’

NHS England’s acting director of primary care Dr Nikita Kanani said she is ‘delighted to see how many GPs have returned via the scheme’ and pointed out that over half of the 2020 recruitment target has now been achieved.

She said: ‘This is just one of several plans we have underway to recruit more GPs, including having more trainees in place than ever before. So, it makes sense to raise the profile of a scheme that we know works and allows colleagues to return to practice safely and confidently.’

BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘We are pleased that this scheme – backed by the BMA – has proven so successful so far, and we welcome the renewed offer of support for these experienced doctors wanting to bring their skills and expertise back to British general practice.

‘Crucially, if we are to encourage even more doctors to enter or return to the workforce, current workload pressures must be addressed, and efforts made to improve the high-stress working environment.’

But recent workforce numbers from NHS Digital showed the number of fully qualified full-time equivalent (FTE) GPs has dropped by 2% over the past year.

Studies have shown GPs are increasingly considering leaving general practice due to workload, with four in 10 wanting to quit in the next five years.

And earlier this week, a think tank report estimated that general practice will be 7,000 GPs short within thenext five years, and called for a major remodel of primary care.

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