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£10 million investment to boost GP workforce

The investment will fund a ten-point plan focusing on the 3Rs – recruitment, retention and returners

Ingrid Torjesen

Monday, 26 January 2015

NHS England is investing £10 million to kick start a range of initiatives aimed at expanding the general practice workforce.

The funding will be used to develop a range of initiatives outlined in a ten point plan, in collaboration with Health Education England (HEE), the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and the BMA, to increase the number of GPs, encourage recruitment to areas with the greatest need and to develop the role of other primary care staff such as nurses and pharmacists.

There will be a new scheme to encourage GPs with young families, who may be considering a career break, to retain a part-time working commitment. It will support GP practices to offer GPs the opportunity to work with a modified workload and support and will be piloted in areas which have found it more difficult to recruit. There will also be a wider review of existing ‘retainee’ schemes.

In addition, there will be a new ‘returner’ scheme, which will fund induction and support packages for GPs returning from a career break or working abroad to ensure they are ready to return to practice. There will also be targeted investment to support GPs to return to work in areas of greatest need around the country.

Also in areas of greatest need, training hubs will be piloted in GP practices. These will offer doctors, nurses and other health staff, such as pharmacists, opportunities to develop new and additional skills in primary care.  To encourage young doctors to become GPs in areas of greatest recruitment need, they will be offered a further year of training in a related clinical specialty of interest such as paediatrics, psychiatry, dermatology, emergency medicine and public health.

The initiatives will be underpinned by a national marketing campaign to highlight the opportunities and benefits of a career in general practice.

The plan is part of the NHS Five Year Forward View and the New Deal for primary care, which set out a specific commitment to tackle workforce issues. It has been developed, in addition to existing work to increase the general practice workforce to achieve an additional 4,900 trained GPs by 2020 compared with 2012. The £10 million investment is part of the recently announced £1 billion additional investment for primary care infrastructure. 

Wendy Reid, chief executive of Health Education England, said:  “This programme will spearhead a completely new cultural change within primary care, supporting a wider multidisciplinary team to work together by emulating successes in emergency medicine for the benefits of patients across the NHS.

”One innovative solution currently in planning is the development of regional training hubs, bringing together the wider expertise of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other specialisms tailored to the regional needs of patients locally.  All of this underpinned by a more equitable and easier career route within a highly rewarding part of the NHS.”

Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "This action plan is good news for general practice and good news for patients.  By tackling the three Rs - recruitment, retention and 'returners' - this action plan gives us a real chance to build up the size of our GP workforce that our nation needs. General practice has been under great stress for the last decade, which has meant that family doctors have not been able to deliver the level of service to their patients that they have wanted.”

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, Chair of the BMA’s General Practitioner Committee, said: “At a time when GPs are under extreme pressures due to rising workload exceeding capacity, this funding has the potential to be an important first step towards increasing GP numbers. It is positive the recruitment, retention and returners programme has the endorsement of both NHS England and Health Education England, together with kick-start funding, as a signal of central support for general practice as a career. It is vital that these measures, including commitments to increase recruitment and improve retention are implemented rapidly, not least as these were key parts of the 2015/16 contract negotiations agreed between NHS England and the BMA GPs committee.”

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