Return of the returner scheme

After a 10 year hiatus, the GP returner scheme returns to England as the National GP Induction and Refresher (I&R) scheme.

In a nutshell, if you've not been a GP in the UK for more than two years, the scheme:

  • Allows you to be inducted (in the case of an overseas applicant) or refreshed into UK general practice.
  • Paid a bursary of up to £2,300 per month.
  • To begin with, you'll sit an MCQ; you'll have up to five attempts to pass it, and you'll get reimbursed for one of these if you successfully complete the I&R scheme.
  • If you do really well, you could get away with just 2 weeks supervised placement.
  • Do less well and as well as being required to perform a simulated surgery, you could need up to 6 months full-time equivalent to complete the I&R scheme.
  • It all ends with a structured assessment and, passing that, off you go!

All that glitters

It must come as a huge relief to all concerned that at last there is a very sensible and well-structured scheme in place to safely bring more GPs into general practice, but we do have some concerns.

  • There is no mention anywhere about contracts of employment, terms and conditions etc so although only certain practices with existing high standards will be able to host doctors on the I&R scheme, there don't appear to be any safeguards in place to ensure their welfare.
  • There's no mention of this reimbursement be pensionable through the NHS superannuation scheme.
  • It could backfire in terms of recruitment and retention, giving existing GPs a safeguard to stay away from UK general practice for even longer than two years in the knowledge that it might only take two weeks to get back in. Previously, no such safeguards existed.
  • It's in England only (at the moment), so this could mean that, as well as GPs feeling more secure in staying away, their return to practise as GPs may leave patients in our islands, highlands and valleys even worse off for GP numbers.

For a good in-depth analysis from the schemes authors, see their excellent article in the March 25th edition of BMJ Careers.

Are you thinking about the I&R scheme? Are you in the UK at the moment, or taking a break? Will the I&R scheme entice you to return sooner, or reassure you to stay away for longer?

7 Responses

  1. Sally
    I have been working in general practice in BC,Canada for the past 7 year and now plan to return to the UK. I am pleased that there is a central point of contact to organize me back into general practice back home. When I left I was not thinking about my return at all so I do not believe it will influence doctors taking time away.
  2. Sally
    So initially I was pleased that there was a pathway guiding me back into NHS general practice. Now 7 months down the line I am less pleased. I have been unemployed for 5 months but still the bills come in: initial cost of relocating back to the UK, house rental for the family (because you cannot buy without first having a job!), compulsory membership to GMC, medical defence, local medical council (to name a few), exam fees (1000GBP), travel and other expenses. Finally this week I started my supervised induction and refresher (3-6 months) with pro rata pay (approx £115 per 7.5 hr day). My question is, if a GP registrar can get the same supervision and training - AND be paid - then why not a GP returner? Why can I not start supervised work whilst I wait for the exams? Had I known that it would cost me in the region of £15,000 and 7 months off work then I would NOT have returned!! I welcome comments please.
    • Lindsay Moran
      I totally agree Sally. I think this is exploitation of doctors.
  3. Dr Leena Jones
    Currently in the GP returner scheme so far it has taken 4 months. I completed the simulated surgery and I am waiting for approval of the Performers List application. As mentioned in the previous comment it seems ludicrous that GP returners cannot work whilst awaiting exam dates considering there is an 8-10 week period between the MCQ and the simulated surgery . After discussing with other applicants it is an improvement compared to before but the whole process is extremely disjointed still, considering the shortage of GPs currently.
  4. Ben
    Returned to UK late Dec 2014 after 3 years overseas. Passed both exams band 4 (early June and late July) = 3 months retraining, which will finish on 4th Dec 2015. An entire year for only £7475 income (minus thousands in various fees). Absolutely bloody appalling.
  5. Lindsay Moran
    I know of doctors abroad who are put off from returning to the UK because of this ridiculous system and massive financial loss that it will bring.
  6. advise for the simulated surgery and places for occ health clearance
    i did the simulated surgery exam in Oct this year and was 3 points below the pass line , i did not pass. I have now looked at on-line videos and I am better prepared. I would like to ask colleagues who passed the simulated surgery for any advise, for example can you allow the client to leave the room before the 10 minutes is up? I thought you had to stay with the client until the buzzer went off. I would also like to know the addresses of any centres for occupational health clearance Many thanks and look forward to your replies

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