26 January 2015

£10 Million Investment Boost to Expand General Practice Workforce

Health leaders have today announced a £10 million investment to kick start a new plan to expand the general practice workforce.

NHS England funding will be used to develop a range of initiatives in collaboration with Health Education England (HEE), the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and the BMA to increase the number of GPs and develop the role of other primary care staff such as nurses and pharmacists.

Building on existing work, the four organisations aims to boost development of a stronger, more responsive general practice workforce to better meet the needs of patients now and for the future.

The ‘10 point plan’ includes:

  • Funding a new scheme to encourage GPs with young families who may be considering a career break, to retain a part-time working commitment. It will support GP practices to offer GPs the opportunity to work with a modified workload and support and will be piloted in areas which have found it more difficult to recruit. There will also be a wider review of existing ‘retainee’ schemes.
  • Investment in a new ‘returner’ scheme, which will fund induction and support packages for GPs returning from a career break or working abroad to ensure they are ready to return to practice. There will also be targeted investment to support GPs to return to work in areas of greatest need around the country.
  • Developing pilot training hubs based in GP practices around the country, initially in areas with the greatest workforce needs. The GP practices will become training and development centres offering opportunities for doctors, nurses and other health staff such as pharmacists to develop new and additional skills in primary care. 
  • Incentivising young doctors to become GPs in areas of greatest recruitment need by offering a further year of training in a related clinical specialty of interest such as paediatrics, psychiatry, dermatology, emergency medicine and public health.

This work will be underpinned by a national marketing campaign to highlight the opportunities and benefits of a career in general practice.

The plan is part of the NHS Five Year Forward View and the New Deal for primary care, which set out a specific commitment to tackle workforce issues. The NHS Five Year Forward view sets out a greater role, and the need for investment, in general practice.

The £10 million investment is part of the recently announced £1 billion additional investment for primary care infrastructure. The £10 million funding will kick start the 10 point plan which has been developed in addition to existing work to increase the general practice workforce. This includes work by Health Education England alongside NHS England and the RCGP to get an additional 4,900 trained GPs by 2020 (compared with 2012).

Dr Mike Bewick, Deputy Medical Director at NHS England, said: “Primary care is the bedrock of the NHS and the Five Year Forward View makes clear that it will continue to play an even greater role in the future. We need greater investment in GP services, extending to community nursing, pharmacy and eye care service and this £10 million will kick start a range of initiatives to drive that forward so every community has GP services that best meets its health needs.”

Wendy Reid, Chief Executive, Health Education England, said:  “This programme will spearhead a completely new cultural change within primary care, supporting a wider multidisciplinary team to work together by emulating successes in emergency medicine for the benefits of patients across the NHS.

”One innovative solution currently in planning is the development of regional training hubs, bringing together the wider expertise of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other specialisms tailored to the regional needs of patients locally.  All of this underpinned by a more equitable and easier career route within a highly rewarding part of the NHS.”

Maureen Baker, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "This action plan is good news for general practice and good news for patients.  By tackling the three Rs - recruitment, retention and 'returners' - this action plan gives us a real chance to build up the size of our GP workforce that our nation needs. General practice has been under great stress for the last decade, which has meant that family doctors have not been able to deliver the level of service to their patients that they have wanted.

“By rolling out the action plan, we are laying the foundations for a fully reinvigorated and restored general practice, which can deliver excellent patient care in the community and take substantial pressure off our hospitals. We hope that this will be the start of more sustained investment for general practice that will help us reduce waiting times for GP appointments, provide more flexible opening hours and provide more services for patients closer to home.”
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, Chair, BMA’s General Practitioner Committee, said: “At a time when GPs are under extreme pressures due to rising workload exceeding capacity, this funding has the potential to be an important first step towards increasing GP numbers.  It is positive the recruitment, retention and returners programme has the endorsement of both NHS England and Health Education England, together with kick-start funding, as a signal of central support for general practice as a career.  It is vital that these measures, including commitments to increase recruitment and improve retention are implemented rapidly, not least as these were key parts of the 2015/16 contract negotiations agreed between NHS England and the BMA GPs committee.

“It is also encouraging that after prolonged lobbying by the BMA, NHS England have formally agreed to work with the BMA GPs committee to expand the infrastructure of general practice to include premises”.

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7574/7575/7581
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 50,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.



NHS England is the body, established in April 2013, which leads the NHS in England. It allocates funding to England’s 211 GP-led Clinical Commissioning Groups, and directly commissions primary care, specialised services and healthcare services for offenders. Its main aim is to improve the health outcomes for people in England, and it sets the overall direction and priorities for the NHS as a whole.

NHS ‘Five Year Forward View’ – New models of care: A single blueprint for how care can be delivered across England does not exist. Different local health communities will instead be supported by the NHS’ national leadership to choose from amongst a small number of radical new care delivery options, and then given the resources and support to implement them where that makes sense.

One new option will permit groups of GPs to combine with nurses, other community health services, hospital specialists and perhaps mental health and social care to create integrated out-of-hospital care – the Multispecialty Community Provider. Early versions of these models are emerging in different parts of the country, but they generally do not yet employ hospital consultants, have admitting rights to hospital beds, run community hospitals or take delegated control of the NHS budget.

A further new option will be the integrated hospital and primary care provider – Primary and Acute Care Systems – combining for the first time general practice and hospital services, similar to the Accountable Care Organisations now developing in other countries too.

Health Education England, as the lead body on the NHS workforce and has established an independent Primary Care Workforce Commission to identify models of primary care to meet the needs of the future NHS. The Commission is expected to report back end of June 2015. HEE is also leading on: improving breadth of training. HEE will work with partners to resource an additional year of post CCT training to candidates seeking to work in geographies, where it is hard to recruit trainees.

HEE, NHS England, RCGP and BMA will identify key workforce priorities that are known to support general practice - including e.g. physician associates, medical assistants, clinical pharmacists, advanced practitioners (including nursing staff), healthcare assistants and care navigators. We will agree a shared programme of key pilots at scale in primary care, to invest in and trial new ways of working for these roles, demonstrating how they work across community, hospitals and within GP surgeries to support safe and effective clinical services for patients. This will support current GPs in managing their workload, as well as piloting new ways of working for the future.

HEE and NHS England will publish a new induction and returner scheme, recognising the different needs of those returning from work overseas or from a career break, and work with the RCGP and BMA to agree safe, and proportionate standards. This will be done in close collaboration with the BMA GPs committee.

For more information, please contact nhsengland.media@nhs.net or 0113 825 0958/9 for urgent out of hours enquiries: 07768 901293