The Targeted Investment in Recruiting Returning Doctors pilot scheme will allow practices struggling with long-term vacancies to offer up to £8,000 in relocation allowances in addition to an educational bursary of £2,000 to help encourage GPs to take up positions.
Practices across England are struggling to recruit, with one in four GP vacancies unfilled for more than a year according to a GPonline poll earlier this year.
The incentive offer is only open to doctors who have completed NHS England's induction and refresher scheme, and participants must commit to take up the post for at least 0.5 whole-time equivalent as a partner or salaried GP.
To be eligible, GPs must be prepared to relocate to work in a practice identified by NHS England as one which has historically struggled to recruit GPs, and must be in excess of one hour’s normal travel – around 50 miles – from their previous home.
The relocating GP will be able to claim the allowance to cover expenses incurred as a result of the move, including legal fees associated with buying and selling a house, rental costs, cost of boarding a child in school at their existing location and removal expenses.
Practices will also be given marketing support to advertise their vacancy and up to £2,000 to fund locum cover in the first 12 months while the new GP undertakes educational sessions in line with their PDP.
They must be able to demonstrate to their NHS England local team that they have been unable to fill the post for a minimum of 12 months, ‘despite frequent attempts’ to do so.
NHS England said it will identify practices that could benefit from the scheme and invite them to apply.
An individual GP will only be able to receive the resources once and will be required to stay with their recruiting practice for at least three years. Practices will also only be able to access the scheme once.
The pilot will run throughout 2016, with applications for support able to be made until 30 June. The future of the scheme hinges on ‘impact and take up’ of the pilot, NHS England said.
RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker welcomed the scheme. She said: ‘Making it easier for trained GPs to return to frontline patient care after a career break or period working abroad is a priority for the College, and this scheme that targets returning doctors to work in areas most in need makes a lot of sense.
‘It’s important that adequate safeguards remain in order to ensure patient safety, and that every GP who wants to return to practise in the UK is treated equally, but we need to cut through any unnecessary red tape, and working with NHS England, I’m pleased that we are making strides in this area.
‘NHS England’s GP Forward View offers a lifeline for general practice, and this is just one proposal to build the GP workforce contained within it. It is now vital that this proposal, and others, are implemented effectively and as a matter of urgency in order to keep our profession – and the wider NHS – sustainable.
‘We hope this scheme will encourage returning GPs in hard to recruit areas in the best interests of providing safe care now and in the future, wherever our patients live.’