A total of £206m from a £508m 'sustainability and transformation fund' launched on Thursday as part of NHS England's landmark General Practice Forward View will be used to expand the GP and wider primary care workforce.
The General Practice Forward View also acknowledges practices' concern that a 'shift to reliance on locums is undermining service continuity and stable team working', and sets out plans to introduce 'new measures entitling GPs who want flexible working but who can commit to working in a practice or an areas for a period of time' to additional benefits for 'undertaking a rolling series of short-term locum roles' rather than working day-by day.
NHS England's document reiterated existing plans for a 'major GP recruitment campaign', with targeted £20,000 bursaries and fellowships to attract GPs to areas struggling to attract GP trainees, a bid to attract 500 doctors from overseas to UK general practice and an enhanced GP retainer scheme.
The plans highlight early success in recruitment to GP trainee posts for 2016 - hailed as a potential turning of the tide for general practice recruitment - with 70% of 3,250 posts filled after a single round of applications.
In the run-up to last year's general election, health secretary Jeremy Hunt pledged to 'train and retain' 5,000 extra GPs by 2020. GPonline reported last year that a senior NHS official had admitted to MPs that GP trainees and 1,000 existing GPs who would be 'retained' would count towards the 5,000 target.
The General Practice Forward View says at least 500 GPs will be attracted back or retained in general practice, through steps to simplify return to work routes and financial incentives targeted at under-doctored areas. The national induction and refresher scheme offers £2,300 per month bursaries to doctors planning to return to general practice.
NHS England also set out plans to recruit 'a minimum of 5,000 other staff working in general practice by 2020/21', with plans including:
- 3,000 extra mental health therapists by 2020 - one for every three GP practices in England.
- Almost 2,000 pharmacists in general practice by 2020, backed by a £140m investment.
- £15m extra to develop practice nursing, with extra training capacity and retention schemes.
- £45m to train reception and admin staff to help patients and take on more clinical paperwork to free GP time.
- Train 1,000 physician associates and pilot new medical assistant roles.
- £6m investment in practice manager development.
- Training hubs to support primary care workforce development.
Tackling soaring GP workload is identified as the 'single biggest enabler' that could help encourage GPs to continue working for longer at the end of their careers, and the document sets out an array of measures aimed at reducing pressure.