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NHS England is today setting out the latest measures it is implementing to help general practice cope with increasing demand – boosting GP numbers and tackling burnout as part of the General Practice Forward View.
A nationwide, £19.5m NHS GP Health service will be introduced in January 2017, aimed at improving access to mental health support for general practitioners and trainee GPs while the Induction and Refresher scheme will be revamped to speed up the time it takes for GPs to return to practice in England.
Rosamond Roughton, NHS England’s Director of Commissioning, said: “Today 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 Health Education England, the British Medical Association and the Royal College of General Practitioners was established this year to review the scheme and deliver a package of improvements.
These improvements focus on three key areas. Firstly increased financial support from November 2016 that will:
- Increase the monthly bursary for doctors on the Induction and Refresher scheme from £2300 to £3500. This will be available to new or existing doctors on the scheme.
- 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 entire process. The team will also provide support including:
- Assistance and advice with completing forms and paperwork
- Assistance with arranging occupational health assessments
- Advice on arranging indemnity
- 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 will 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. This will mean that doctors on the scheme have less time to wait until they can sit next the next round of assessments.
The second major part of today’s announcement focusses on helping GPs who may be suffering from mental ill-health including stress and burnout. The Hurley Clinic Partnership, who currently provide the NHS Practitioner Health Programme, has been appointed to run a free, confidential service for any GP or trainee registered on the National Performers List or looking to return to clinical practice.
Available in 13 areas across the country, the NHS GP Health Service will be accessible via a confidential national self-referral phone line, website and app, enabling GPs and GP trainees to seek information about the services available, access self-help tools, and access clinical support.
The service is the world’s first nationally-funded health service of its kind for general practice, a clear signal of NHS England’s commitment to help retain a healthy and resilient workforce and in supporting GPs and GP trainees who wish to remain in or return to clinical practice after a period of ill health.
NHS England has worked closely with its partners, including the BMA’s General Practitioner Committee, HEE, the RCGP and the GMC to develop a service that responds to issues that GPs have highlighted as priorities.
Some examples of the support that will be available include face-to-face services offering:
- General Psychiatric assessment and treatment.
- Support for addiction related health problems.
- Psychotherapy one-to-one and group sessions.
The service will launch in January 2017 and forms an important part of NHS England’s commitment to retain a healthy and resilient workforce for the benefit of both staff and patients. Today’s announcement builds on recent measures NHS England has already taken to help put general practice on to a more sustainable footing for the future. This includes running the winter indemnity scheme again this year while rolling out a £60m, two-year package to help with rising indemnity costs.
NHS England’s latest planning guidance further detailed recurrent funding to improve and increase capacity in general practice, totalling £138m by 2017/18 and increasing to £258m by 2018/19.