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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’.