Workforce plan pledges incentive schemes to boost GP workforce

An interim NHS workforce plan has promised a two-year primary care fellowship programme and return to practice initiatives to boost GP numbers, calling family doctors 'now more important than ever'.

The plan - dubbed the 'NHS People Plan' - re-commits the government to delivering an extra 5,000 full-time equivalent GPs ‘as soon as possible’. It pledges work to build on programmes such as the GP Retention Scheme, GP Career Plus, the Local GP Retention Fund, and the GP Health Service.

It promises ‘further immediate action’ to expand the GP workforce, including ‘return to practice initiatives to attract experienced GPs back into the NHS’ and ‘a new two-year primary care fellowship programme that offers newly qualified GPs – and nurses entering primary care –a secure contract of employment, working in a role tailored both to their career aspirations and interests and to the needs of local health services’.

Dr Nigel Watson, who led a review of the GP partnership model, told GPonline earlier this year that a fellowship programme 'must be ready by summer' to encourage GPs at the beginning of their careers to choose ‘substantive’ primary care roles rather than opting for locum work. The People Plan says that the fellowship scheme will be available 'by March 2020'.

NHS People Plan

The plan - developed by organisations from across the NHS - also pledges to make general practice a ‘a better place to work’ by ‘providing more opportunities for mentoring and coaching, widening the availability of portfolio roles,’ and ‘addressing burnout through the Practitioner Health Service’.

Steps are also being taken to ensure ‘greater flexibilities for GPs and other primary care clinicians at all stages of their careers’, the report says. The final People Plan report - expected after the government’s next spending review in autumn - will ‘set out a broader strategy for a sustainable general practice workforce and how we will meet the commitment to an additional 5,000 doctors working in general practice through both recruitment and retention programmes’.

Early interventions to help promote generalism among medical students are also being introduced, including a new ‘medicine training model’ for doctors intending to enter speciality training in ‘most medical specialities’.

‘Together with the ongoing expansion of GP training programmes, this will mean that from 2019 around two thirds of postgraduate medical trainees have generalist-based training,’ the report confirms.

Meanwhile, work is being done to ‘implement a collaborative system-level approach to the delivery of international recruitment,’ including the identification of national ‘lead recruiter’ agencies with particular expertise to help grow the number of nurses and doctors from overseas in the UK.


NHS Improvement chair Baroness Dido Harding, who is leading the workforce plan, said: ‘This plan clearly acknowledges the workforce challenges the service faces. I want frontline NHS staff to know that we have heard their concerns about the pressures they face and we are determined to address them.

'The NHS needs more staff to meet the ambitions for patients set out in the NHS long-term plan. But that, on its own, is not enough. We need to change the way people work in the NHS to recognise the changing needs of patients and to create a modern, caring and exciting workplace that should be the best place to work in England. This will take time but this interim plan sets out a clear direction of travel and commits to the immediate actions available to us.’

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘There’s no question: we need more staff and a more supportive culture. The interim people plan is the first step. It sets out plans to train more, hire more, and retain more staff.

'The NHS will take immediate action over the coming year to lay the foundations to grow a future workforce that can truly deliver the highest-quality care to patients from the cradle to grave.’

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