NHS to launch world's first free health service for GPs

NHS England will launch the 'world's first' health service for GPs in January to help tackle burnout and support GPs to return to work after a period of ill health.

NHS England director of commissioning Ros Roughton

NHS England set out plans this week to deliver the £19.5m nationwide NHS GP health service to improve 'access to mental health support for general practitioners and trainee GPs', offering confidential support for any GP or trainee suffering mental ill health issues including stress or burnout.

The service will offer support including face-to-face general psychiatric assessment and treatment, support for addiction related health problems, and psychotherapy one-to-one and group sessions.

Officials have also announced plans to overhaul the NHS Induction and Refresher scheme 'to speed up the time it takes for GPs to return to practice in England'.

GP burnout

NHS England director of commissioning Ros Roughton said: 'We are announcing a major step forward in the support we are offering GPs, as part of the commitments and investment we set out in the GP Forward View.

'We are responding directly to the concerns of the profession and implementing immediate, practical ways of helping GPs and those returning to a profession that remains one of the most rewarding careers in medicine.'

BMA education, training and workforce lead Dr Krishna Kasaraneni said: 'One of the key factors undermining general practice in the past few years has been the mounting workforce crisis that has left many GP practices without enough GPs to deliver an effective service to patients.

'An important issue has been the ongoing and completely unavoidable barriers that are put in place of GPs returning to work after taking a career breaks or leaving the NHS for short periods. We cannot afford to have highly skilled professionals sitting on the sidelines at a time when patient demand is rocketing.

'The BMA has worked with the government to design fresh induction and retention schemes that are properly funded. The latest revisions announced today are to be welcomed as a further step forward in this process. The GPC will not rest until we make the process of working in NHS general practice a straightforward one and an attractive one.'

GP workforce

Reforms to the Induction and Refresher scheme are part of plans set out in the GP Forward View to reduce the time it takes doctors to return to practice. NHS England hopes to encourage 500 GPs back into the profession by 2020/21 - a figure it hopes to count towards its overall 5,000-GP recruitment target.

Changes to the scheme from November will increase the monthly bursary for doctors on the Induction and Refresher scheme from £2,300 to £3,500, and offer a top up worth £1,250 to help cover indemnity costs.

Doctors will also be offered £464 toward the cost of GMC membership. Both this fee and the indemnity top up will be available until 31 October 2018.

Assessment fees that can cost up to £1,000 will also be scrapped for first-time applicants, and doctors on the Induction and Refresher scheme will be offered support from 'account managers' who will support them through the process.

NHS England said it would also introduce a system to ensure that suitable doctors could bypass the Induction and Refresher scheme altogether and be added straight onto the performers list, and offer assessments every two months rather than quarterly so that doctors were not left waiting long periods to sit rounds of testing.

The GP health service will be made available in 13 areas across England, and will be accessible via a confidential national self-referral phone line, website and app.

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