A national campaign aimed at getting hundreds of family doctors to return to general practice has already attracted almost 800 GPs nationwide into coming out of retirement, returning to the profession after taking a break or working in another occupation, or moving from overseas.

NHS England and Health Education England (HEE) have produced a new brochure for GPs considering a return which details the improvements that the NHS Long Term Plan will deliver for general practice, with billions in extra funding and plans to recruit 22,000 health professionals to support GPs that will improve services for patients while also easing the GP workload.

The Induction and Refresher Scheme was upgraded in 2016 with a new package of support to make it easier for doctors to return to the profession and a target of recruiting 500 GPs by 2020. By the end of 2018 a total of 785 GPs had applied to join the scheme. Of these, 279 have now fully completed the programme and joined the GP workforce in England.

One doctor in Kent who has taken advantage of the refresher scheme is 60 year-old Peter Bruck (pictured below right).

Peter, from Tunbridge Wells, decided to return as a GP in 2016 after 13 years of using his skills in different roles, such as his last position in a large charity which offered whole person healthcare.

He said: “I decided to move back into general practice as it is what I have always enjoyed. Having left general practice in 2003 to develop my interest in HIV medicine, I knew primary care had changed and that I would need some help, so I was really pleased I heard about the refresher scheme.”

Following written and practical assessments, Peter soon found himself placed in a surgery ready to start seeing patients again.

Speaking of the changes he has noticed, Peter said: “There are more people who are living longer and relatively well with multiple conditions. There is also a bigger expectation of what can be done, because there have been so many advancements in the past 15 years and people are better informed and better read.”

It was this focus on supporting people’s wellbeing combined with his strong sense of faith that led Peter back to a hands-on physician role. Four months on the refresher scheme provided Dr Bruck with just the re-introduction he needed.

Peter said: “What I really enjoyed was that the training was bespoke to my personal needs as a returning practitioner. I was aware I didn’t have as much experience treating children as I needed, so I was linked in with a colleague in paediatrics who helped me develop that area of my practice.”

“If I continue to enjoy it as much as I have, I could easily see myself working until I am 65,” he said. “I love working one-to-one with patients and building relationships with them to support their health. I know changes are challenging, but I am back doing what I trained for all those years ago and making a difference.”

Dr Nikita Kanani, NHS England’s acting medical director for primary care and a south east London GP said: “We’re delighted to see how many GPs have returned via the scheme. We understand the pressures GPs are under, and have invested an extra £978million in core general practice funding by 2023-24 as part of the GP contract, together with a pledge to recruit more than 20,000 healthcare workers to support family doctors over the next five years.”