NHS England will run a campaign to encourage departed GPs to return to the profession, working for practices or NHS 111, by promoting ‘flexible roles where, for example, working from home is possible’.
The Government has also pledged to ‘make it easier’ for qualified GPs to return to practice, from this month, by replacing the current assessment structure with a personalised pathway.
Encouraging experienced GPs who have left general practice to return is part of the wider ambition, laid out in this week’s recovery plan, to build primary care capacity.
In addition to the new assessment pathway, from April NHS England has committed to increasing the monthly bursary for returning GPs who ‘would benefit from a placement in general practice’ from £3,500 to £4,000.
‘From May 2023, we are making it easier for doctors to return by replacing the fixed set of multiple assessments with an individual pathway based on personal review.’
The Return to Practice (RtP) scheme provides a supported pathway for qualified GPs, who have previously been on the GMC GP Register and England Medical Performers List (MPL), to return after an absence of more than two years.
While the International Induction Programme (IIP) facilitates a pathway for overseas qualified GPs, who have never previously worked in general practice in the UK, to get on the register and MPL.
The current requirements for completion of both schemes include assessments such as a Workplace Based Assessment (WPBA), mandatory e-learning modules, and a placement.
In April, the Government made changes to the NHS Pension Scheme to promote retention and returners, including completely removing the 16-hour rule which had meant members who take their pension benefits can only return to work for a maximum of 16 hours per week in their first month back.
The recovery plan said: ‘GP numbers are not where we would like them to be, and it will take time for higher training numbers to work their way through.
‘We will do more to bring new doctors into general practice, retain those working today and encourage recent leavers to return.’
As well as the changes to the GP returner process, the plan also set out the Government’s work to grow practice teams with newer roles, make it easier for international medical graduate doctors to stay in the UK after GP training, and improve GP retention.
However, it suggested the long-awaited workforce plan, due to be published ‘shortly’, will go further by laying out ‘ambitious plans to significantly expand GP specialty training and ensure the NHS can recruit and retain the GP workforce it needs in the future’.
The recovery plan also announced proposals to enable patients to get prescription medicine directly from the pharmacist without the need for a GP appointment for seven common conditions, and pledged £240m funding for practices to move away from analogue systems to digital telephony.