Returner rates show more must be done to address north-south divide, warns GPC

Areas in greatest need of GPs are missing out from a new returners scheme which has recruited 60 doctors back into the profession since March.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey: 'Yet another indication as to the work that needs to be done to address the North/South divide'. (Photo: Alex Deverill)
GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey: 'Yet another indication as to the work that needs to be done to address the North/South divide'. (Photo: Alex Deverill)

Health Education England (HEE) figures obtained by GPonline by a freedom of information request show that areas hardest hit by the workforce crisis have attracted fewest GPs under the induction and returner scheme.

The north east and east midlands regions, which have struggled to fill training places and contain some of the areas in greatest need of GPs, have each recruited just a single GP since the scheme was launched.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt praised the scheme in his new deal speech in June. ‘An induction and returner scheme for those returning to the profession from overseas or from a career break has been refreshed and now includes support with the cost of returning to general practice. Over 50 GPs have already taken up this offer’, he said.

The area with the highest number of returners under the scheme was London with 18, while 7 were recruited in the south west and 6 to the Kent Sussex and Surrey region. 

GPC deputy chairman and Leeds GP Dr Richard Vautrey said the figures were ‘yet another indication as to the significant amount of work that needs to be done by HEE and other bodies to address the North/South divide, so that patients can access the same level of GP care wherever they live in the country’.

HEE said it was unable to provide information on the costs of the scheme for each GP as funding varies according to individuals.

HEE said: ‘The Induction and Refresher/Returner (I&R) scheme takes a flexible approach and is tailored to meet the needs of individuals and their requirements, for returners offering a short or long refresher programme based on their past and more recent clinical experience. 

‘The induction part of the programme is designed to allow the safe entry of qualified GPs with no previous experience to safely enter the NHS GP workforce. 

‘The level of support and the duration of programme offered to an individual will vary and is managed on a case by case basis.  It is for this reason that we do not hold and cannot quantify exactly how much support or how many sessions have been provided.’

HEE returners between March and July 2015. Source: HEE.

LETB area
East Midlands 1
East  7
West midlands 3
Kent, Sussex, Surrey 6
London 18
North west 4
North east 1
Thames Valley 5
South west 7
Wessex 5
Yorkshire and Humber 3

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