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Government can’t enforce policy tying doctors to NHS, says RCGP chair

10 October 2016

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The Government will be unable to enforce their new policy, requiring doctors to work for the NHS for four years after qualifying, the chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has said.

Speaking with Pulse at the RCGP conference last week, Maureen Baker said the new scheme could put potential graduates off studying medicine.

She added that if doctors did leave, the NHS would “want them to come back”, making it difficult to “criminalise people for leaving to go off and work elsewhere”.

“Frankly, I don’t see how it can be enforced, so why would you do it?” she said. “What are you going to do, take their passports off them for four years?”

Jeremy Hunt, health secretary, announced at the Conservative Party Conference that the government will fund up to 1,500 additional training places for medical students each year from September 2018.

However, he said training just one doctor costs more than £200,000 so the government is asking all new doctors to work in the NHS for four years, “just as army recruits are asked to after their training”.

NHS England also announced new measures to cut the time it takes for GPs to return to practice by simplifying the current Induction and Refresher scheme.

The scheme, which aims to support at least 500 more doctors back into practice by 2020/21, includes an increase in the monthly bursary for doctors taking part in the scheme from £2300 to £3500.

“Making it easier for GPs to return to practice after a career break or period working abroad is a priority for the College,” said Baker.

She added: “It is vital that GPs who want to return to practice aren’t put off simply because the process is too bureaucratic, and we’re optimistic that the improvements will make the process even easier, and help us build our GP workforce, ultimately in the best interests of patient care.”