RCGP secures returners incentives agreement to tackle GP workforce crisis

NHS officials have agreed to RCGP proposals for new GP returner incentives to help ease the workforce crisis, according to the college.

Dr Maureen Baker: workforce proposals
Dr Maureen Baker: workforce proposals

Principles for a new scheme to get GPs who have left the country or taken a career break back into practice were agreed in May by officials from the RCGP, the GPC, NHS England, the Medical Defence Union, the Women’s Medical Federation, and two local education and training boards. Health Education England is also contributing to the process.

A set of proposals to reduce the barriers to re-entering the profession and help ease workforce pressures include making it easier for GPs who move abroad to come back to practice here by having remote appraisals to demonstrate they are up to date.

Chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker said she want mechanisms to allow GPs working abroad to rejoin the performers' list, as well as supported places in practices t povide returner or refresher training.

Pool of GPs to recruit

The college believes there is a ‘substantial pool’ of GPs who can be recruited back into the workforce. 

The proposals call for a ‘safe proportionate process, based on risk stratification and informed by educational needs of the individual’, with a range of assessment options used in accordance with a GP’s circumstances and needs.

Proactive careers support would be provided for GPs planning to take time out of clinical practice, and unnecessary barriers to returning removed.

The workforce proposals said investment already made in training should be maximised by encouraging GPs to return, calling for incentives to bring doctors back into practice.

‘It was agreed that incentives are required to bring doctors back into the UK workforce, the value of medical care represented by these doctors being far greater than the cost of retraining. Practice placements must be funded and a consistent funding arrangement established as a first priority,’ a document setting out the workforce proposals reveals.

There was, the RCGP said, a ‘strong case for return on investment funding for returner schemes’.

Return on investment

Dr Baker told GP the approach was about stratifying returners according to risk and developing more pragmatic options for their return.

'We've tried to say it is much more appropriate to treat people according to their circumstances and that a GP who is in ongoing clinical practice in another country is probably in a different situation from someone who hasn't worked for five years.'

She said the two biggest groups of potential returners were those working abroad and those on career breaks, often for family reasons.

'We are trying to say might there be mechanisms for someone to rejoin the performers list while they are abroad, to let them apply for jobs directly,  so they know where they are going, which is a lot more attractive.

'And also, how can we provide supported places in practices for people who do need returner or refresher training. And then, what is the most appropriate method of assessment, if indeed an assessment needs to take place.'

The college said it would work with the other organisations to implement the agreed principles.

A spokesman fo9r NHS England said: 'NHS England is working collaboratively with the Royal College of General Practice and Health Education England on a range of ways to help support doctors who are on, or who plan to take a career break, get back into clinical practise.
'In the short term, we are working on developing a ‘keep in touch‘ scheme so that doctors not working in UK general practice have an opportunity to remain in contact with developments affecting primary care. This will be coupled with producing better quality and more accessible advice to anyone taking a break from working in NHS general practice.
'In the medium to longer term, we are exploring ways in which we can review the appraisal process to facilitate retention or return to the National Performers List for those temporarily working abroad in primary care and refreshing the induction and returners scheme to make it more appropriate and proportionate for returning doctors.'

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