Almost 4,000 GPs rejoin GMC register as COVID-19 deaths surge

Around 3,800 GPs have rejoined the medical register barely a week after the government activated emergency powers to ease growing workforce concerns, the GMC has revealed.

The return of thousands of GPs who had left the medical register within the last three years came as UK deaths from coronavirus spiked - with the total at the end of 26 March confirmed at 759. A total of 14,579 cases have been confirmed - including prime minister Boris Johnson and health and social care secretary Matt Hancock.

GPs granted temporary registration by the GMC as part of the government's response to the coronavirus outbreak make up 32% of more than 11,800 doctors who have rejoined the register.

Last week the GMC wrote to more than 15,000 recently retired doctors, explaining that they had been automatically granted temporary registration to help boost workforce numbers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some doctors opted out, but the remaining 11,856 have now been granted temporary registration with a licence to practice. The average age of the doctors is around 53, and more than a third are aged under 45.

GP workforce

The announcement comes as practices have already started to report a staffing crisis in primary care as GPs are forced to stop working to self-isolate with their families.

A web guide to explain more about the temporary registration process has also been launched by the GMC, allowing UK doctors to access the information about the practicalities of returning to work.

GMC chair Dame Clare Marx said: ‘The challenge facing our health services, and indeed the UK as a whole, is unprecedented. Doctors are leading the fight and are working under immense pressure. Returning to practice in the current situation is a major commitment, and we are very grateful to each and every one of the doctors who are doing so.

‘We realise that for many the decision about whether to return clinical work, and what roles they might be willing to do, is a difficult one. Doctors who had left the profession are under no obligation to return, and even now that temporary registration has been granted they are still able to change their minds if they wish, for any reason.’

Emergency powers

The GMC has stressed that when and where the doctors may be deployed and the roles they may be asked to carry out, will be decided by the NHS and doctors themselves.

Wessex LMCs chief executive and New Forest GP Dr Nigel Watson recently explained why he was returning to practice. He believed that many other GPs were willing to return with the country ‘facing a national emergency’, but warned that practices would need further support to get through the pandemic.

‘Practices need to be supported financially to cover the potential sickness absence but also to expand their workforce for the duration of the crisis. GPs who work less than full time may also be willing to increase the sessions they work during this crisis,’ he said.

Doctors' leaders have warned that retired doctors returning to work in the pandemic could be at risk because of evidence that coronavirus can affect older people more severely - and have suggested that many could be deployed in non-patient facing roles.

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