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Health leaders have today (Monday) announced a £10 million investment to kick start a new plan to expand the general practice workforce. The money will be used to recruit new GPs, retain those that are thinking of leaving the profession and encourage doctors to return to general practice to better meet the needs of patients now and for the future.
NHS England funding will be used to develop a range of initiatives in collaboration with Health Education England (HEE), the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and the British Medical Association (BMA) to increase the number of GPs and develop the role of other primary care staff such as nurses and pharmacists.
- To recruit newly trained doctors into general practice in areas that are struggling to recruit, we will incentivise them to become GPs by offering a further year of training in a related clinical specialty of interest such as paediatrics, psychiatry, dermatology, emergency medicine and public health. This work will be underpinned by a national marketing campaign aimed at graduate doctors to highlight the opportunities and benefits of a career in general practice. Alongside this, pilot training hubs based in GP practices will be established in areas with the greatest workforce needs to encourage doctors to train as GPs in these areas. They will also enable nurses and other primary care staff to gain new skills.
- To retain GPs the plan includes establishing a new scheme to encourage GPs who may be considering a career break or retirement, to remain working on a part-time basis. It will enable practices to offer GPs the opportunity to work with a modified workload 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.
- To encourage doctors to return to general practice HEE and NHS England will publish a new induction and returner scheme, recognising the different needs of those returning from work overseas or from a career break. There will also be targeted investment to encourage GPs to return to work in areas of greatest need which will help with the costs of returning and the cost of employing these staff.
The plan is part of the NHS Five-Year Forward View, which set out a specific commitment to tackle workforce issues. The £10 million is part of the recently announced £1 billion additional investment for primary care infrastructure, announced last week which over the next four years will improve premises, help practices to harness technology and give practices the space to offer more appointments and improved care for the frail elderly.
Simon Stevens, Chief Executive at NHS England, said: “Primary care is the bedrock of the NHS and the Five-Year Forward View makes clear that it will play an even greater role in the future. We need greater investment in GP services, extending to community nursing, pharmacy and eye care services. This £10 million will kick start a range of initiatives to drive that forward so every community has GP services that best meets its health needs.”
Professor Wendy Reid, Medical Director and Director of Education and Quality for 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.”
Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, Dr Maureen Baker 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.
“By rolling out the action plan, we are laying the foundations for a fully reinvigorated and restored general practice, which can deliver excellent patient care in the community and take substantial pressure off our hospitals. We hope that this will be the start of more sustained investment for general practice that will help us reduce waiting times for GP appointments, provide more flexible opening hours and provide more services for patients closer to home.”
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.
“It is also encouraging that after prolonged lobbying by the BMA, NHS England have formally agreed to work with the BMA GPs committee to expand the infrastructure of general practice to include premises”.
This funding will kick start the 10 point plan which has been developed in addition to existing work to increase the general practice workforce. This includes work by Health Education England alongside NHS England and the RCGP to get an additional 4,900 trained GPs by 2020 (compared with 2012).