GMC must cut red tape to retain GPs recruited in pandemic, says BMA

GPs who returned to the NHS workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic could leave unless the GMC reduces red tape around its registration process, the BMA has warned.

Sign reading 'General Medical Council'
(Photo: GMC)

The GMC was given emergency powers to grant temporary licences to retired doctors and those who had let their registrations lapse to bolster the NHS workforce during the pandemic. Around 30,000 doctors, including 11,272 GPs, took up temporary emergency registration (TER) in spring 2020.

Some 7,923 GPs who signed up still hold temporary registration - and although they may not all be active, doctors' leaders have urged the GMC to make it as easy as possible for any who want to continue working to do so.

The government has ordered the scheme to end in September, but the BMA has called on the regulator to make its process for GPs to convert their registration from temporary to permanent ones 'as bureaucracy-free as possible'.

GMC registration

Calls to streamline the registration to help retain potentially thousands of GPs come as a recent poll suggested 12,000 GPs plan to quit direct patient care within five years - twice the number the government has promised to add to the workforce by 2024. The full-time equivalent GP workforce remains around 1,700 fully qualified doctors below the level in 2015.

The GMC told GPonline that it was not possible to estimate how many GPs will have TER withdrawn at the end of September because some doctors registered through the scheme could have registered permanently before then.

However, the BMA has asked that efforts are made to cut down bureaucracy to ensure a straightforward application. BMA England GP committee executive officer Dr Richard Van Mellaerts, said: ‘We’re grateful for all retired doctors who made themselves available to support the NHS through its most challenging period in history, including those retired GPs who did so.

‘At a time when general practice is struggling with deepening workforce shortages and unprecedented pressures, it’s crucial that those who are appropriately qualified and wish to continue contributing are able to do so in a manner that is as bureaucracy-free as possible, and we’d encourage them to apply for regular registration.’

GP workforce

The GMC has said that it will support GPs applying for routine registration and wanting to continue working after September when its emergency powers end. But it has urged them to do this as soon as possible, and no later than 30 June 2022 to avoid disruption.

A GMC spokesperson said: ‘We are very grateful to those doctors, almost 30,000 of them in total, who held temporary emergency registration with us to support the UK’s response to the pandemic.

‘The government has announced that our emergency powers will end in September 2022 at which time we will close temporary emergency registration. We will now begin working with doctors and healthcare providers to make sure patient care is not disrupted. 

‘Doctors who hold temporary emergency registration will still have plenty of time to consider their options if they wish to continue to practise beyond September. We will write to them to let them know how they can apply to remain registered with us on a more permanent basis.’

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