A national scheme – the General Practice Fellowship – aimed at supporting newly qualified GPs and nurses in general practice and boosting their learning and development will close from this March, NHS England has announced.
A second programme called Supporting Mentors, which provides funds to enable experienced GPs to mentor and support the development of less experienced colleagues, will also close at the same time.
The ending of both nationally-funded retention schemes on 31 March 2024 was announced in a primary care bulletin sent out by NHS England last week. However, it said it will ‘continue to invest in GP retention in 2024/25’ and that more details and guidance will follow a little later this year.
NHS England also confirmed that GPs and nurses who join the two-year fellowship scheme before 31 March will be able to complete the programme and that funding will be available to those participants in 2024/25.
The fellowship allows those eligible to benefit from funded CPD opportunities of one session per week (pro rata) and rotational placements within or across PCNs ‘to develop experience and support transition into the workforce’.
Practices are reimbursed for one session per week (pro rata) to allow participants to spend time on the programme, up to a total of £10,200 per GP.
Meanwhile, £8.4m was made available nationally for the GP mentoring scheme in 2023/24. It reimburses mentoring GPs for attending training and a fee of £289 for each mentoring session they deliver. Mentees are drawn from the participants on the fellowship programme and others.
Our sister publication Nursing in Practice reported nursing leaders being disappointed at the decision.
Posting on social media site X, NHSE primary care nursing lead Louise Brady said continuous professional development and education and training ‘makes a tangible difference in recruitment and retention of this integral workforce’.
‘Decisions to secure funding going forward will now sit with ICB chief nurses and provision will vary from region to region,’ she added.
Meanwhile, RCGP chair Professor Kamila Hawthorne told Pulse that the decision to end the GP retention schemes was ‘both surprising and very disappointing’, particularly at a time when ‘we need to be doing absolutely everything we can to keep GPs in the workforce’.
She added: ‘It is vital that newly qualified GPs are given the opportunity to settle into a practice and learn the ropes – we hope that if these schemes are being wound down, then there are plans to replace them with something better and easier to access across the whole of England.’
Management in Practice has contacted NHS England for further information.