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?