• Returning GPs use commercial insurers at “huge cost” following rejection from major mutual insurers
  • NHS England asked to “streamline” retraining process as “excessive” delays cause “financial hardship” for returning GPs
  • Induction and refresher scheme “too slow and bureaucratic ” says RCGP

“Excessive” delays in retraining and “huge” indemnity costs are preventing GPs returning to work, medical charities have said.

Three charities which support GPs have written to NHS England over concerns that GPs are being discouraged from returning to work in the UK.

They also asked the national commissioner to “streamline” the national retraining scheme as “excessive delays” are causing “financial hardship” to GPs wanting to return to work.

As part of plans, introduced in the General Practice Forward View earlier this year, NHS England said it would aim to attract 500 doctors back in to general practice in the next five years.

Plans to make it easier for GPs returning to work included:

  • halving the average time it takes for to return to work;
  • addressing delays in securing disclosure and barring service checks;
  • increasing financial compensation available through the GP retainer scheme from 1 May 2016;
  • introducing a new GP retainer scheme more fit for purpose from 1 April 2017; and
  • an offer of targeted financial incentives to GPs from May 2016 for returning to work in areas of greatest need.

The letter, signed by senior figures from the Cameron Fund, the Royal Medical Benevolent Fund and the Royal Medical Foundation, said returning GPs are not being accepted for medical indemnity cover by the three major mutual insurers – the Medical Protection Society, the Medical Defence Union and the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland. As a result, GPs are having to resort to commercial providers at “huge cost”. The letter is addressed to NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh and primary care commissioning lead David Geddes.

GPs are unable to return to the national performers’ list without medical indemnity cover. The list shows all GPs who have the suitable qualifications, checks and training to practice in the country.

The letter said: “In the context to the problems of GP recruitment and expected retirements, this additional hurdle is preventing GPs from returning to practice in the UK, and is clearly an area of concern to us, but we suggest should be a major concern to NHS England and the government.”

Concerns were also raised about “excessive delays” in the process for returning to work, including “a considerable delay” in making the necessary payments to people on the national retraining scheme announced last year.

Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “The updates to the induction and refresher scheme has resulted in more doctors now using this route to return to practice and that is very welcome given the current shortage in GP numbers across the UK.

“The revised scheme, now covered by the GP National Recruitment Office, makes it easier for GPs to return to practice in the UK – returning GPs can get bursaries for the period of time that they are in supervised practise and can claim back assessment fees if they go on to work in the NHS.

“Despite these improvements to the scheme, the college believes it is still too slow and bureaucratic, and the information provided by the Cameron Fund on what many are currently are experiencing when trying to return to practice in the UK suggests that the level of financial support through the scheme should be reviewed.

“The issue with returners being unable to secure indemnity is also very concerning.

“We’re hopeful that the upcoming formal review of the scheme in 2017 will address some of the issues outlined by the Cameron Fund, so that the process is made even easier and helps us build our GP workforce across the UK.”

An NHS England spokesman said: “Rising indemnity costs are having a serious impact on as well as stifling innovation in primary care delivery.

“We are determined to help resolve this issue and the recently launched General Practice Forward View is just part of the work we are doing with our partners to further support and the wider care primary care workforce.”