NHS England unveils £10m GP retention fund

GP retention schemes across England will receive a share of a £10m funding package by July to help them maintain the general practice workforce, NHS leaders have announced.

Local organisations will be free to decide how and when the funding is spent, but £7m will be allocated to schemes that promote new ways of working and to offer support through a new 'local GP retention fund'.

Seven 'intensive support sites' will also be set up in areas that have faced the greatest problems with retaining GPs, backed by £3m. Where these organisations will be and how they plan to boost the GP workforce will be announced in June, NHS England said.

Retaining GPs is a key plank of the government's pledge to boost the GP workforce by 5,000 GPs by 2020/21. Just a month after health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt announced the target in September 2015, Health Education England chief Professor Ian Cumming told MPs that 1,000 of the target would come from retaining existing GPs who had planned to quit, and persuading GPs to return to the workforce.

Newly qualified GPs

NHS England said the £10m fund would target 'newly qualified GPs or those within their first five years of practice, who are seriously considering leaving general practice or who are no longer clinically practising in the NHS in England but remain on the performers list'.

The local retention schemes will build on the national GP retention scheme, set up in 2017, which offers support for up to five years for GPs who have quit or are thinking of leaving general practice due to personal reasons, approaching retirement or requiring greater flexibility.

Dr Raj Patel, deputy director of primary care for NHS England, said: 'We are aware of the pressures currently facing GPs and, in particular, the need to support the valued doctors we have to continue working when they are faced with personal challenges which might make this difficult.

'The local GP retention fund will help to address this as part of several measures we have put in place to provide that much-needed support for GPs who are already working hard to provide great care for patients in their community.'

GP retention

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: 'General practice is in a tough place right now, and it’s essential we look after the hard working GPs in our profession, including those just starting out in their careers. Today’s measures are really welcome, and we appreciate the focus on supporting local initiatives and areas that are finding it particularly difficult to retain GPs in the profession.'

GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: 'We know that general practice is in the midst of a recruitment and retention crisis, as doctors face the pressures of rising demand, low resources and increasing administrative burden, leaving many with rock-bottom morale and what they feel is no choice but to leave the profession or reduce their time with patients.

'Local initiatives that aim to hold on to the valuable workforce that keeps high-quality, community-based generalised care running on a daily basis are vital for the future of general practice. From newly-recruited trainees, to doctors with decades of experience behind them, the government and NHS England must prove they are committed to valuing each individual GP and take seriously the risks to the health service that short-staffed general practice poses.'

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