Exclusive The GMC is contacting thousands of returner GPs who were temporarily authorised to practise during the Covid pandemic with advice on how to permanently restore their licence.
The news comes as Pulse can reveal that 8,224 GPs currently hold a temporary licence – a measure which was made possible via emergency legislation brought in at the start of the pandemic.
Although the health secretary can advise when the legislation is no longer needed, the GMC told Pulse it is ‘in ongoing discussions’ with the Department of Health and Social Care to ensure it is given ‘several months’ notice’ before it must remove the registration.
GPs who wish to stay on when the special legislation is removed will need to go through the process of applying to restore to routine registration and a licence.
The GMC said that although there are ‘no plans to fast-track applications’ for returners, it will ‘ensure that registration to routine registration is as streamlined as possible’.
A spokesperson said: ‘We would encourage doctors who have decided to remain in practice to apply to restore their registration and licence now rather than waiting for temporary emergency registration to be removed.
‘We will be contacting doctors with temporary emergency registration over the summer with some more information including how to apply to restore to routine registration and a licence.’
Using its emergency powers, the GMC was able to grant temporary emergency registration to approximately 30,000 doctors in March 2020, making them eligible to support the NHS in responding to the Covid pandemic.
Out of these, approximately 25,000 doctors continue to hold temporary registration – 8,224 of whom are GPs, though not all of them may be practising, the GMC told Pulse.
The news comes as a GP indemnity provider has extended its offer of free medicolegal support for GPs returning to practise to help with the pandemic effort, including Covid vaccinations, until the end of 2021.
Medical Protection director Dr Rob Hendry said: ‘We would like to reassure retired members who are still assisting with the NHS Covid-19 response including the NHS vaccination programme rollout, that this support will remain in place until the end of 2021, and that we will keep under review whether this needs to be extended further.’
The news comes as the Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration (DDRB) raised concerns around GP recruitment and retention in its pay recommendation for salaried GPs last week.
The DDRB warned that despite rising trainee numbers, the GP workforce is effectively ‘stagnant’ due to poor retention and an increase in part-time working.
Additional reporting by Nicola Merrifield and Jamie Bennett-Ness