As the NHS comes under recruitment pressure, NHS England has announced a new package of sweeteners intended to ensure GPs can be retained by the health service.
NHS England has increased the level of financial incentives for those GPs who work on the retained doctors scheme by 33%.
This is intended to convince doctors to stay in the profession for longer, amid reports that many are considering quitting clinical practice in the wake of the ongoing junior doctors dispute.
GPs on the retained doctors scheme will be paid £76.92 per session per week from this month; an increase from the previous rate of £59.18.
Payments toward professional expenses have also been elevated, with the rate rising quite dramatically from the previous £310 to £1,000 per session, with a maximum of four such sessions per week.
GP leaders generally welcomed the scheme, with some of the most notable professional bodies stating that it would be of benefit to doctors across the UK.
The British Medical Association indicated that the scheme that could help retain GPs who would otherwise have left the profession, particularly those working in part-time positions.
Eligibility for the scheme is dependent on GPs being able to provide “compelling evidence” that without support from the retainer scheme they would quit the profession.
This could be a red flag for many GPs, with the definition of compelling evidence perhaps open to interpretation.
Equally, it can be rather difficult for doctors to provide anything other than circumstantial evidence, as intentions to quit the profession are likely based on personal feelings.
Nonetheless, Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, BMA GP workforce lead, indicated the support of the British Medical Association for this new initiative, acknowledging the massive pressure being placed on general practice currently.
“This new enhanced retainer scheme, negotiated by the BMA, will provide significant more resources to both GP practices and individual GPs to allow highly skilled professionals to remain in the workforce particularly in part time roles. Everyone involved in general practice will know that GP services are under incredible pressure, one of those being from chronic staffing shortages that are undermining the delivery of patient care throughout the country.”
Kasaraneni continued by emphasising the importance of flexibility in the GP profession, hoping that this new scheme could contribute to a more sensitive and considerate working environment for GPs.
“We cannot allow capable GPs who need to change their working patterns, often women and men who have taken a break to start a family, to be prevented from playing a part in helping to rescue general practice from its current predicament.”
Dr Zoe Norris, BMA GP sessional committee chair, noted the problems that many patients are experiencing with general practice, and hope that the new initiative could play a positive role in changing this perception.
“Patients can see they are waiting longer and longer to see their GP because there simply aren’t enough staff in the NHS. In the past, if you were a doctor who took time out to have a family, or care for a relative and wanted to then come back to work, there was no support. So these doctors left and this patient care suffered. The NHS lost highly skilled GPs in a time of dire need. This new scheme means that GP practices who can offer support to GPs we would otherwise lose, get the resources they need. More doctors can see more patients and this has to be an improvement.”