GP retention fund needs more money and wider scope, warns RCGP

The GP retention fund requires 'more significant investment' to increase its impact on the GP workforce, the RCGP has said.

GP consultation (Photo: iStock)
GP consultation (Photo: iStock)

In its second annual assessment of the GP Forward View (GPFV), the RCGP concluded that the £10m GP retention fund - unveiled in May - could ‘benefit from a number of changes, including widening its scope and more significant investment’.

The existing scheme promises £7m in 2018/19 to set up local schemes that enable GPs to stay in the workforce through promoting new ways of working and offering additional support. A further £3m is also being granted to seven ‘intensive support’ sites in areas struggling to retain GPs, with the aim of working out which strategies are most effective.

The intensive support sites are:

  • The Black Country STP
  • Mid and South Essex STP
  • North Kirklees and Greater Huddersfield CCG
  • Blackpool, Morecombe Bay and West Lancashire CCG
  • Weston and Worle locality (locality within Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire CCG)
  • Isle of Wight CCG
  • Newham health collaborative ltd (North East London)

The RCGP has welcomed the ‘positive initiative’, but its report argues: ‘It is important to note that this is a modest amount of funding split across the country and [it] is currently for 2018/19 only.'

NHS England has confirmed to GPonline that the £3m funding will be split equally across the seven intensive support sites, meaning each will receive around £428,000.

The report continues: 'There is only one intensive site for each NHS England region; more could be included in this initial work.

'Any learning from the success of the roll out of this fund should be further built upon in the future, with enduring funding to support it.’

GP Forward View

The GP retention fund builds on the national GP retention scheme, set up in 2017 to offer support for up to five years to GPs who have quit or are thinking of leaving general practice due to personal reasons, are approaching retirement or require greater flexibility.

Asking GPs to remain in the workforce is a major part of the government's plan to deliver an extra 5,000 GPs by 2020/21. When the target was set, officials revealed that it would include persuading 1,000 existing doctors to delay retirement or return from career breaks.

As of March 2018, 286 retained GPs were being supported overall. Although this represents an increase of nearly 80% since September 2015, analysis by GPonline earlier this year showed that the number of GPs on the retainer scheme is being dwarfed by the numbers leaving the profession each month.

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘[The GPFV] needs an urgent overhaul to address the pledges that are not progressing fast enough, particularly around retaining our existing workforce and reducing our workload; and to recognise the changing landscape of NHS funding, which now includes a promise of £20bn extra a year by 2023.

‘General practice is the lifeblood of the NHS. GPs and our teams make the vast majority of NHS patient contacts for little over 9% of the overall budget, and in doing so we alleviate pressures in hospitals where care is costlier.’

Following their review, the RCGP have demanded an extra £2.5bn investment boost for the GPFV.

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