£10m investment announced for GP workforce expansion

A £10m investment has been announced by NHS England to kick-start a plan to expand the GP workforce.

Simon Stevens: primary care is NHS bedrock
Simon Stevens: primary care is NHS bedrock

GP leaders welcomed the launch of a new plans to recruit, retain and return GPs.

The money, which will be taken from the £1bn infrastructure fund announced by ministers in the autumn statement last year, will be used to develop a number of initiatives in collaboration with Health Education England (HEE), the BMA and RCGP.

GPC chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul said the funding boost had ‘the potential to be an important first step towards increasing GP numbers’.

Restored general practice

RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker said the funding would lay ‘foundations for a fully reinvigorated and restored general practice’.

As part of the plan newly trained doctors will be incentivised to go into general practice in areas struggling to recruit with the offer of a further year of training in a related specialty such as paediatrics, psychiatry, dermatology, emergency medicine or public health.

There will be a national marketing campaign showing graduate doctors the benefits of a career in general practice.

Pilot training hubs will be set up in practices in areas with greatest workforce needs to help recruitment.

GP retention scheme

A new retention scheme will encourage GPs to continue working part-time rather than retire. Pilot practices will be able to offer modified workloads. The existing retainer schemes will be reviewed.

A new induction and returner scheme will be launched by NHS England and HEE, recognising the differing needs of those returning from overseas and from a career break.

Returnees will be encouraged into areas with greatest need with targeted investment which will help with the costs of returning and employing.  

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: ‘Primary care is the bedrock of the NHS and the Five-Year Forward View makes clear that it will play an even greater role in the future. We need greater investment in GP services, extending to community nursing, pharmacy and eye care services. This £10 million will kick start a range of initiatives to drive that forward so every community has GP services that best meets its health needs.’

Cultural shift in primary care

HEE medical director of education Professor Wendy Reid said: ‘This programme will spearhead a completely new cultural change within primary care, supporting a wider multidisciplinary team to work together by emulating successes in emergency medicine for the benefits of patients across the NHS.

‘One innovative solution currently in planning is the development of regional training hubs, bringing together the wider expertise of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other specialisms tailored to the regional needs of patients locally. All of this underpinned by a more equitable and easier career route within a highly rewarding part of the NHS.’

Dr Baker said: ‘This action plan is good news for general practice and good news for patients. By tackling the three Rs - recruitment, retention and returners - this action plan gives us a real chance to build up the size of GP workforce that our nation needs.

She added: ‘By rolling out the action plan, we are laying the foundations for a fully reinvigorated and restored general practice, which can deliver excellent patient care in the community and take substantial pressure off our hospitals.’

Dr Nagpaul said: ‘At a time when GPs are under extreme pressures due to rising workload exceeding capacity, this funding has the potential to be an important first step towards increasing GP numbers.

‘It is positive the recruitment, retention and returners programme has the endorsement of both NHS England and HEE, together with kick-start funding, as a signal of central support for general practice as a career.

‘It is vital that these measures, including commitments to increase recruitment and improve retention are implemented rapidly, not least as these were key parts of the 2015/16 contract negotiations agreed between NHS England and the GPC.’

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