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Could your practice benefit from the GP Retention Scheme?

Medeconomics explains how the GP Retention Scheme works, and outlines payments for practices.

The GP Retention Scheme began in April 2017, replacing the Retained Doctors Scheme. It is a package of support and resources aimed at GPs who may be considering leaving the profession. Changes to the scheme were negotiated as part of the 2017/18 GP contract agreement.

From July 2019, all GPs that were part of the Retained Doctors Scheme with time remaining were transferred to the GP Retention Scheme.

Who can be a retained doctor?

The scheme is open to doctors who meet all of the following criteria:

  • If they are seriously considering leaving or have left general practice (but are still on the performers list) due to personal reasons (such as caring responsibilities for family members or personal health reasons); approaching retirement or require greater flexibility in order to undertake other work either within or outside of general practice.
  • And when a regular part-time role does not meet the doctor's need for flexibility, for example the requirement for short clinics or annualised hours
  • And where there is a need for additional educational supervision. For example, a newly-qualified GP needing to work 1-4 sessions a week due to caring responsibilities or those working only 1-2 sessions where pro-rata study leave is inadequate to maintain CPD and professional networks.

Doctors must hold full registration and a license to practise with the GMC and be on the performers list.

Retained GPs are not permitted to carry out other daytime in-hours locum or salaried GP work while on the scheme, except when a change of workplace is expected to occur or they are in the final 12 months of their scheme. They can work in an out-of-hours setting, undertake clinical work in other settings, or have a non-clinical role, for example as an appraiser or in education or management.

How does the scheme work?

Retained GPs work no more than four sessions a week, or 208 per year. A retained GP session is defined as being 4 hours 10 minutes, which includes administrative time, clinical meetings and dialogue with the clinical supervisor.

The number of sessions can be annualised with the expectation that the GP works a minimum of 30 weeks out of the 52. The pattern of sessions worked will be reviewed with the GP each year through their annual review.

Retained GPs can remain on the scheme for up to five years, with an annual review each year to ensure they remain eligible. This review should take place with the desginated Health Education England Retained GP Scheme lead.

Retained GPs must meet appraisal and revalidation requirements in the same way as any other GP. They must inform their responsible officer that they are a retained GP.

Which practices can benefit from the scheme?

The employing practice must offer a sufficiently wide range of services to enable the retained GP to maintain their skills. NHS England's guidance says the retained GP should be 'embedded in one practice' to ensure peer support.

The practice must be able to meet the GPs educational needs and understand the importance of mentoring. The practice should also offer flexibility around the sessions worked.

Payment for GPs and practices

The table below sets out the annual bursary payment for retained GPs, to be paid via their practice.

GP retainer scheme payments
 Annualised serssion*
 Number of sessions per week
 Bursary payment per annum
 Fewer than 104
 1-2  £1,000
 104  2  £2,000
 156  3  £3,000
 208  4  £4,000
*annualised sessions include statutory holidays, annual leave and sessions used for CPD

Each practice employing a retained GP can claim an allowance relating to the number of sessions.

GP retainer scheme payments for practices
Payment per session worked by retained GP from 1 July 2016  £76.92

The BMA says that a practice will be able to claim £16,000 per year for a retained GP undertaking four sessions per week.

What are practices required to do?

  • Offer adequate and appropriate induction, both on joining and after any significant break (such as maternity leave). This will include, for example, IT systems, information governance, safeguarding etc. The BMA FAQs (see link below) provides a comprehensive list of what constitutes appropriate induction for a retained GP.
  • Nominate a clinical colleague who will provide support and development time (fortnightly or monthly).
  • Notify the Retained GP Scheme lead in advance of any substantial changes within the practice that may impact upon the employment and educational arrangements of the retained doctor.
  • Work with the retained GP to create a job plan suitable for the needs of the GP to keep them in the profession. This should include partcipation in team meetings during the retained GPs normal working days.
  • The retained GP is entitled to the pro rata equivalent of one protected session per week for CPD. There should be a balance of CPD sessions in the practice and attendance at courses outside the practice. If CPD activities fall outside the retained GPs contracted time the CPD time can be taken on an 'in lieu' basis.
  • Encourage and facilitate the appropriate use of CPD time allowance.
  • All retained GPs should be employed by the practice under terms and conditions no less favourable than the model salaried GP contract (see below for a link to the BMA's model contract for the GP Retention Scheme 2017).
  • In exceptional circumstances practices may employ more than one retained GP with prior approval of their desginated scheme lead.

Job plans

The retained GP's job plan should ensure the post delivers it aims, including provision for CPD. The NHS England guidance (see below for link) has full details about what should be included in the job plan and example plans to help practices develop these.

Useful resources

Database of GP Fees

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