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Campaign to attract former GPs back to general practice

The campaign aims to encourage GPs who have retired or left the NHS back into practice

Ingrid Torjesen

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

NHS England and Health Education England (HEE) have launched a new campaign aimed at getting hundreds of family doctors to return to general practice.

The campaign will promote the Induction and Refresher (I&R) scheme that has already attracted almost 800 GPs into coming out of retirement, returning to the profession after taking a break or working in another occupation, or moving from overseas.


The I&R scheme was upgraded in 2016 with a new package of support to make it easier for doctors to return to the profession and a target of recruiting 500 GPs by 2020. By the end of 2018 a total of 785 GPs had applied to join the scheme. Of these, 279 have now fully completed the programme and joined the GP workforce in England.

The scheme will be promoted through a digital, social media and print advertising campaign, and NHS England and HEE have produced a new brochure for GPs considering a return which details the improvements that the NHS Long Term Plan will deliver for general practice.

Dr Nikita Kanani, NHS England’s acting medical director for primary care and a south-east London GP said: “We’re delighted to see how many GPs have returned via the scheme, with more than 50% of the recruitment target already achieved.

“General Practice is the bedrock of the health service and is a priority as part of the NHS Long Term Plan. We understand the pressures GPs are under, and have invested an extra £978 million in core general practice funding by 2023-24 as part of the GP Contract, together with a pledge to recruit more than 20,000 healthcare workers to support family doctors over the next five years.

“This is just one of several plans we have underway to recruit more GPs, including having more trainees in place than ever before. So, it makes sense to raise the profile of a scheme that we know works and allows colleagues to return to practice safely and confidently.”

Dr Richard Vautrey, British Medical Association (BMA) GP committee chair, said: “While GPs, for various reasons, may wish to take time away from the country or from practice altogether, it is vital that we do not lose this valuable section of our workforce for good, especially if they do wish to return. Therefore, we are pleased that this scheme – backed by the BMA – has proven so successful so far.”

He added: “Crucially, if we are to encourage even more doctors to enter or return to the workforce, current workload pressures must be addressed.”

Nicky Cleave, 50, was out of general practice for more than 20 years before returning in November 2017 and now works as a GP two days a week in a Dorset practice which she combines with her other role as a public health consultant.

She said: “I didn’t think it was feasible to return after being away so long but I was pleasantly surprised by what was on offer from the returner scheme in terms of support. Initially I found it very full on, but If I can do it, anyone can.”

Professor Simon Gregory, director and dean of education and quality, Midlands and East and GP lead for HEE said: “It’s important that GPs who have careers breaks can safely and confidently return to practice and feel supported in doing so. The changes made to the scheme in recent years have made a huge difference and it has been great to welcome so many colleagues back and caring for patients.”

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