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Over 500 GPs tempted back to practise in England through NHS scheme

Exclusive More than 500 GPs have applied to NHS England’s ‘induction and refresher’ scheme, with more than 300 already practising on the front line, Pulse has learnt.

The latest statistics from NHS England show that of 546 GPs that applied to join the scheme since its launch in 2015, with 142 GPs having completed the scheme and working in practices, while a further 193 are currently on the scheme and working in practices under supervision.

According to NHS England the remaining 211 GPs will be starting on the scheme at a later date.

The scheme forms part of a range of measures rolled out by NHS England in a bid to deliver the Government’s pledge to recruit 5,000 more GPs by 2020.

Dr Arvind Madan, director of primary care at NHS England, told delegates at the Best Practice conference last year that ‘around 400’ GPs had returned to the frontline.

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, workforce lead on the BMA’s GP committee, said the latest figures were ‘encouraging’ considering ‘general practice is suffering as a result of staff shortages and unmanageable workloads’.

He said: ‘The BMA has made significant progress working with NHS England to help produce an induction and refresher scheme that gives doctors who have taken time away a simple route to re-enter general practice, and we hope more take up this opportunity to return to the profession in England.’

The programme, which was first launched in March 2015, 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 Dr Madan said the latest figures are ‘good news’.

He said: ‘Increasing GP numbers is a core part of our five year plan to improve patients’ access to care, so it’s good news that alongside nearly 350 GPs returning to practice through the induction and refresher scheme, we now also have record numbers of trainee GPs.’

Health Education England announced a record-breaking number of trainees were recruited for 2017/18 at 3,157, which however still fell short of the long-standing target to recruit 3,250 graduates per year.

However, the number of GPs leaving the profession continues to outpace the numbers coming in as the latest workforce statistics revealed that the number of full-time equivalent GPs dropped by 1,200 from September 2016 to September 2017.

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.

Under the scheme, qualified GP returners undergo an initial assessment, with those meeting the top grade (Band 5) allowed to return directly to practice.

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

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’.