Hunt launches £1m flexible working pilot for GPs over 55

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has launched a £1m scheme to retain GPs aged over 55 in the profession.

The GP Career Plus programme, set to begin in April 2017, focuses on retaining experienced GPs at risk of leaving general practice. GPs aged 55 to 59 will be recruited to 10 pilots to take on flexible roles such as providing cover, carrying out specific work such as managing long-term conditions, or doing home visits, and providing leadership through mentoring and coaching.

The government said the scheme will provide the flexibility GPs have been asking for in order to extend their careers.

GPs in the scheme will be able to choose the number of sessions the work and provide support to practices that are struggling with heavy workload or recruitment problems.

GP workforce

The £1m for the scheme launched by Mr Hunt today is part of the transformation funding announced in the GP Forward View, in which NHS England set out its intention to introduce new retention incentives.

Mr Hunt said ‘GPs have a wealth of experience and local knowledge, and we want to make it easier for those who choose to carry on working in a way that suits them, and benefits their local patients and colleagues. GP Career Plus will provide them with the flexibility they have been asking for to carry on working or help to train the next generation, all to contribute to our plan for a world class GP service.’

GPC workforce lead Dr Krishna Kasaraneni said if properly implemented the scheme had the potential to enable practices to more easily cover for absences and short-term vacancies.

‘At a time of significant need, the funding for this project will clearly not go very far and so we hope this scheme can be quickly evaluated and, if found to be beneficial, additional funding found to ensure all practices and patients benefit in the long term,’ he said.

GP funding

‘There remain deep problems facing the GP workforce which is struggling to retain staff in an underfunded, overworked environment. The government needs to take broader action to address this crisis, but we also do as part of this need initiatives such as GP Career Plus which allows for a more responsive, flexible workforce.’

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: 'The opportunity for more options and flexibility for experienced GPs, particularly those who might be considering leaving the profession, so that our patients can continue to benefit from their expert skills – and newer GPs can continue to learn from them – is excellent. We look forward to seeing how it works in practice and hopefully, if successful, it can be rolled out further.’

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