latest health care news

27.07.20

NHS launches new childcare costs scheme to boost GP numbers

Under a newly-launched NHS scheme, qualified GPs who are interested in coming back to the NHS or joining from overseas will be able to access financial support to help cover family responsibilities which may otherwise have been a barrier to completing the necessary training.

The new scheme is seen as a way of helping to encourage hundreds more doctors to return to general practice and will cover aspects such as the costs of caring for children or family members.

Eligible GPs would be able to access financial support worth up to £2,000, which is being added to the NHS Induction and Refresher scheme – a programme which has already encouraged 500 GPs who have previously worked for the NHS or who practiced overseas to join the NHS and bring their skills up to current requirements.

The scheme represents one part of wider work to improve access to primary care for patients by bolstering the number of full-time equivalent GPs, which has remained stable at around 34,000 over the past five years despite the head count having increased by around 5,000.

Underpinned by the new GP Contract, the raft of measures aims to deliver 6,000 more doctors and 26,000 more supporting roles, to increase the number of services and appointments available for patients close to their own home.

READ MORE: Almost all GP practices sign up to new primary care network contract

READ MORE: GP trainee recruitment numbers rise for third consecutive year

Dr Nikki Kanani, Medical Director for Primary Care at NHS England, said: “Family doctors and their teams have played a vital role during the coronavirus pandemic and rapidly adapted how they work to ensure people can still access care in new and more convenient ways, and our ambition remains to recruit thousands more GPs and other clinicians to offer the best care we can for our patients.

“GPs, like those in any other walk of life, might take time out from their career to raise a family which can bring additional challenges, move or work abroad or gain experience in a different profession or role.

“But whatever the reason, there is a direct route for those that wish to return to a career in NHS general practice, at a time when the NHS needs all the expertise it can draw on to help in the ongoing response to coronavirus – and thanks to this brilliant scheme, it has never been easier.”

As well as helping cover childcare costs, the NHS has confirmed it will cover those with caring responsibilities. Anyone already on the scheme can claim costs back retrospectively up to April 1, 2020.

The new support offer stands in addition to the £3,500 bursary and other benefits GPs on the scheme are entitled to, including:

  • A relocation package of up to £18,500
  • A reimbursement of occupational health checks
  • Up to four fully-funded attempts at the assessments
  • Access to a national support team so that each GP has access to a dedicated account manager and contact point to support them throughout the entire process

Dr Samira Anane, BMA GP Committee Workforce Policy Lead, added: “General practice continues to be in desperate need of doctors, and therefore it makes no sense for childcare and other caring responsibilities to be a barrier for those GPs who want to offer their valuable and much-needed skills to the NHS.

“These may be doctors who have taken time away from practice to have children and we must do all we can to support them when they want to return to the frontline.

“We are glad that this support – already available to employed workers – is now available to those on this scheme, and, after pressure from the BMA, has been extended to returning GPs with other caring responsibilities as well.

“We are committed to supporting a diverse workforce, and doctors should not be forced to choose between caring for their families or caring for patients. We hope these changes will allow more skilled GPs back into the workforce.”

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