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How do I take advantage of the retained GP scheme?

What is the retainer scheme?

The retainer scheme helps support GPs who might otherwise leave general practice to stay practising. GPs can use this scheme for up to five years, with annual review to confirm eligibility.

Which GPs are eligible for the retainer scheme?

Those who are eligible are: GPs designated as ‘retained GPs’ (RGPs), any GPs who are not in practice but have practised in the past two years and any GPs who can provide their GP dean with ‘compelling evidence that they are intending to leave practice and would do so without this scheme’, according to NHS England guidance.

GPs must be registered with the GMC and on the performers’ list and intend to work less than 208 sessions a year, or four sessions a week, in general practice (including annual leave, statutory holidays and personal development). 

Doctors are not eligible if they ‘require remediation’ or if the NHS England local officer has concerns about them.

Which practices are eligible?

The RGP should be based at one practice, which must offer enough of a range of service to ‘enable the RGP to maintain skills across the full spectrum of the work of a general practitioner’. The practice must show it can meet education needs if the RGP has them, and if they have a previous RGP the practice needs to discuss the outcomes with the GP dean before employing another.

How much will the GP be paid?

The GP will be paid a bursary of up to £4,000 depending on the number of sessions they work. 

Annual sessions (including statutory holiday, annual leave and CPD sessions) Sessions per week Bursary per year

Less than 104












How much will the practice be paid?

The practice can claim £76.92 per session that the RGP works (previously this was £59.18). A retained GP sessions is 4 hours 10 minutes.

What does the practice have to do?

The practice must make sure the RGPs go through an induction on their return to work, tailored to the length of their absence from general practice, which would include details of any changes to IT systems, clinical governance and safeguarding. This should include longer appointment times, for at least their first session. The RGP is also entitled to the pro rata equivalent of one session per week for CPD, balanced within and outside the practice.

The practice should also nominate a clinical colleague to support the RGP and schedule the main clinical meetings for when the RGP is working.

According to NHS guidance ‘RGPs on this scheme are actively encouraged to work extended hours to support seven day access’, as long as it’s within their agreed pattern of work.

The BMA has a retainer scheme contract, which could be used as a template. 

How do I apply?

You can download a form from your local deanery and send it to the local GP dean. The GP dean will manage the scheme. 

What’s changed?

The retainer scheme has been around for a while, but has recently been updated with better funding from July 2016 to increase the amount paid to practices. This funding is available up to the end of June 2019. This is an interim scheme and is available for GPs starting their post between July 2016 and 31 March 2017.

Can I stay on it during parental leave?

Yes the RGP continues to be a member of the scheme while on parental leave, and RGPs are encouraged to make use of keeping in touch days where available.

What other schemes are available?

NHS England has also just launched another pilot scheme to help over-55s stay in general practice but working more flexibly. This scheme, GP Career Plus, will be available from 2017/18 for a 12-month pilot. GPs between 55 and 59 could provide clinical cover (for example vacancies, annual leave, parental leave, sick leave), carry out specific times of work (for example home visits, long-term conditions) or provide leadership with training and coaching. This will be available in 10 pilot areas, for up to 80 GPs, with £1m available.