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Revamp speeds up GP return to practice

Lead doctors welcome announcement

Jo Carlowe

Friday, 07 October 2016

General practitioners who wish to return to practice should find it easier following an announcement to revamp The Induction and Refresher scheme.

NHS England has this week announced plans to shake-up the scheme, which it developed jointly with the Royal College of General Practitioners and Health Education England, in order to speed up the time it takes for GPs to return to practice in England.

The Induction & Refresher scheme was introduced last year, but the RCGP said feedback revealed the process to still be too ‘lengthy, expensive and bureaucratic.’ 

Rosamond Roughton, NHS England’s Director of Commissioning, 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 General Practice 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.”

The General Practice Forward View pledged to simplify the current Induction and Refresher (I&R) scheme, aiming to slash the time it can take doctors to return to practice, with the ambition to support at least an extra 500 doctors back into practice by 2020/21, as part of a broader plan to see an additional 5,000 doctors in general practice by 2020/21.

A working group, including HEE, the British Medical Association and the RCGP was established this year to review the scheme and deliver a package of improvements.

The changes to the scheme include increased financial support from November 2016 to:

  • Increase the monthly bursary for doctors on the Induction and Refresher scheme from £2300 to £3500.
  • Provide a time limited financial top up to the bursary of £1250 to assist with the costs of indemnity whilst on the scheme (available until 31 October 2018).
  • Provide a time limited reimbursement (worth £464) to doctors on the scheme for the costs of GMC membership and DBS fees (available until 31 October 2018).
  • Remove assessment fees for first time applicants (worth up to £1000).

Secondly, increased practical support means a new national support team for the scheme, based in Liverpool. The team will provide each I&R doctor with a dedicated account manager and contact point to support them through the process, to include assistance and advice with paperwork, arranging occupational health assessments and advice on indemnity, and co-ordinating assessments and placements on behalf of doctors. 

Finally, to make it easier for doctors to return to practice and cutting down the time involved, the process is to be made more flexible. Over the next few months NHS England will work with stakeholders to develop a national framework so that suitably qualified and experienced doctors can be added to the Medical Performers List without the need to complete the I&R process.

NHS England will also provide additional funding to increase the frequency of assessments under the I&R scheme from quarterly to bi-monthly.

Professor Maureen Baker, Chair of the RCGP, said the College was ‘extremely pleased and encouraged’ by NHS England’s announcement.

“We’re happy that the updates to the scheme…include increased financial support for GPs to help with indemnity costs and membership and assessment fees, dedicated support for GPs throughout the entire process, and a rise in the frequency of assessments.

“These measures, coupled with improvements made over the past year, such as the ability to start applications whilst still overseas, will go a long way in supporting many more family doctors to return to general practice.

“It is vital that GPs who want to return to practice aren’t put off simply because the process is too bureaucratic, and we’re optimistic that the improvements announced …will make the process even easier, and help us build our GP workforce, ultimately in the best interests of patient care.”

The BMA also welcomes the revamp. Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, BMA lead on Education, Training and Workforce, 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 side lines 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 BMA’s GP committee will not rest until we make the process of working in NHS general practice a straight forward one and an attractive one.”

 

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