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New £10 million fund to help retain GPs

Efforts will be focused on retaining newly qualified GPs and GPs in the seven areas with the greatest retention problems

Ingrid Torjesen

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

NHS England has announced a new £10 million fund to support and retain GPs, £7 million of which will be used to support newly qualified GPs considering leaving the profession and a further £3 million will be targeted specifically at the seven areas in England struggling most to retain GPs.

Around £7 million will be made available through regional-based schemes to help GPs to stay in the workforce, by promoting new ways of working and by offering additional support through a new Local GP Retention Fund.

The GP Retention Scheme, launched in 2017, supports GPs who, for personal reasons, cannot work more than four sessions per week and when a regular part-time role does not meet the doctor’s need for flexibility. The GP receives financial support and the practice where they are based receives funding to support their continued professional development, supervision and mentoring.

The £7 million for a new Local GP Retention Fund will be focused on supporting newly qualified GPs or those within their first five years of practice, who are seriously considering leaving general practice or who are no longer clinically practising in the NHS in England but remain on the National Performers List (Medical).

This builds on emerging best practice across the country such as the Somerset Primary Healthcare Ltd GP Career Plus scheme, which provides facilitated peer support to GPs who have left general practice or who are seriously looking to leave, or the Great Yarmouth and Waveney CCGs GP Career Plus pilot which has created a scheme which seeks to retain experienced late career GPs through pooled working.

A further £3 million will also be used to establish seven intensive support sites across the country in areas that have struggled most to retain GPs. The identity of these seven sites and specific plans for retention efforts there will be announced next month.

Dr Raj Patel, deputy director of primary care for NHS England, said: “We are aware of the pressures currently facing GPs and, in particular, the need to support the valued doctors we have to continue working when they are faced with personal challenges which might make this difficult.

“The Local GP Retention Fund will help to address this as part of several measures we have put in place to provide that much-needed support for GPs who are already working hard to provide great care for patients in their community.”

Other measures include the GP Retention Scheme, and the GP Health Service, launched in 2017, which is a free and confidential mental health service for GPs and GP trainees, who may be experiencing mental health and addiction issues. In addition, NHS England is investing in more training places and an international programme to recruit 2,000 GPs by 2020, he said.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Today’s measures are really welcome, and we appreciate the focus on supporting local initiatives and areas that are finding it particularly difficult to retain GPs in the profession.

“We hope these plans are just the start of more initiatives that tackle escalating GP workload, and that they are implemented with as little red tape as possible. We also want to see more options and greater flexibility for experienced GPs, particularly those who might be considering leaving the profession, so that our patients can continue to benefit from their expert skills – and newer GPs can continue to learn from them.”

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