Workforce/HR/Employment law Pay and Pensions Education and Training

Q&A: How retired GPs are returning to the NHS

NHS England and the GMC are contacting GPs and other doctors to ask them to return to working in the NHS to support the national COVID-19 emergency response. Here is a summary of what practices and doctors need to know about the process.

How is the GMC re-registering recently retired GPs?

The GMC has contacted 15,000 doctors, including 5,000 GPs, across the UK about granting them temporary registration to return to practice and help the fight against coronavirus. 

It is primarily targeting those who gave up their registration or licence to practise within the last three years and who are still considered ‘fully qualified, experienced and of good standing’. 

Doctors who return to help manage the coronavirus response will not be required to complete revalidation requirements by the GMC.

Source: GMC, Coronavirus information and advice: Our emergency powers [updated on 25 March] 

What is the NHS doing to re-hire former clinical staff?

The NHS is also inviting former GPs and other healthcare professionals to return to work during the COVID-19 pandemic response.

Potential workers are asked to complete a survey to help the NHS understand how best to use their skills.

The NHS says: ‘We have a large team working as quickly as they can to bring people back. It is important that we take sufficient time to ensure you are matched on an individual basis to where your skills are most needed, so it may take up to a week before you are contacted by a local NHS organisation.’

Source: NHS England, Doctors: Wherever you can help, you’re needed 

How else can GPs be signed up?

NHS England wrote to GPs on 24 March to let them know how they can help support the GP workforce – including how they can ask to be temporarily registered on the England Performers List. 

It says: ‘If you haven’t heard from NHS England and NHS Improvement or from the GMC but want to volunteer, please email the team at [email protected].

‘If you wish to rejoin the GP workforce, please complete the relevant form below and return to [email protected].’ 

Forms that need to be filled out to rejoin the GP workforce can be found here. 

Details from the 24 March letter note: ‘As well as work in traditional practice settings, we need more doctors to help staff phone lines and provide video consultations; and to work in a variety of other settings that do not require face to face patient contact.

‘As a qualified and experienced GP who has either temporarily or permanently left the NHS, your colleagues and local community are in urgent need of your support to join the fight against Covid-19 in a number of different ways that don’t have to involve frontline care.’

The letter also explains that GPs can ‘choose how much time you contribute and are free to stop working at any point’.

Source: NHS England, GP returners [updated on 26 March] 

Training resources and support for returning GPs

NHS England is developing training modules, which can be found here.

It has also set up a peer support network for people to speak with colleagues for advice. 

Source: NHS England, GP returners [updated on 26 March]

FAQs about returning to the GP workforce 

NHS England has provided a series of answers to ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ for all returning clinicians. Here is a summary of some key responses.

See also Pulse Intelligence financial advice on the pensions and tax considerations for returning GPs and statements from inidivdual Medical Defence Organisations (MDOs) on what additional cover they are offering to returning GPs, who are automatically covered under the NHS Clinical Negligence in General Practice Scheme.

What will I be paid?

During the emergency period, you should be paid on the appropriate contract for the role you are fulfilling, providing you return to the same level of responsibility.

All staff who return to work in the NHS will be paid the substantive rate for their role. The actual amount and the frequency will be confirmed by your employer.

Will I receive the same pay I received when I retired?

If you return to the NHS after retirement you should be paid on the pay point which is no lower than the pay point before you retired. Remuneration for GP work will be benchmarked to similar work and prevailing salary levels.

What if I have not retired, but just left the NHS?

If you have not retired, but left NHS employment, you will be paid at the top of the appropriate pay scale for the role you are filling. If you return to work in roles covered by NHS national terms and conditions of service, the actual amount and the frequency will be confirmed by your employer.

What are the pension payment arrangements?

The government is bringing forward emergency legislation in response to the Covid-19 outbreak that contains important information on pension arrangements for extra NHS staff. It provides for the suspension of the 16-hour rule which currently prevents staff who return to work after retirement from the 1995 NHS Pension Scheme from working more than 16 hours per week, in the first four weeks after retirement. It also provides for:

  • The suspension of both the abatement for special class status holders in the 1995 Scheme
  • The requirement for staff in the 2008 Section and 2015 NHS Pension Scheme to reduce their pensionable pay by 10% if they elect to ‘draw down’ a portion of their benefits and continue working.

Taken together, these measures will allow skilled and experienced staff who have recently retired from the NHS to return to work, and retired staff who have already returned to work to increase their commitments if required, without having their pension benefits suspended.

For more details, see our Pulse Intelligence guide on pension and tax arrangements for returning GPs.

Will I have insurance and indemnity cover? 

Yes – arrangements are already in place to indemnify any professional working in a hospital trust or GP practice.

For more details, see our explainer outlining what state indemnity applies and what additional cover MDOs are offering returning GPs and their staff.

If I opt to see patients remotely, does this affect my indemnity?

Many doctors might have to consult with patients remotely more frequently than normal. In making the decision to consult and advise patients remotely, doctors must balance the risks and benefits and be satisfied that they can adequately clinically assess the patient remotely. Medical defence organisations (MDOs) advise doctors to make a record of the reasoning behind any decisions made and the information they give to patients in case they need to explain the approach they’ve taken later on.

Will I receive an induction process?

Yes – you will receive a fast track induction that will cover key mandatory training requirements, as well as more specific guidance, for example, on the management of coronavirus and use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Some of this would be led by NHS employers. There would also be ward/departmental level induction. If you are a GP, the provider or practice where you are deployed will be responsible for providing you with the necessary induction and clinical supervision, dependent on your individual requirements.

Will I need to learn new skills?

Fast-track induction processes are being developed locally. This will include refreshing on old skills, such as death certification and prescribing, as well as new skills such as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) training. If you are a GP, the provider or the practice where you are deployed will be responsible for providing you with the necessary induction.

How long will I be needed for?

You are likely to be needed for a short time period but at this stage, the exact length is unpredictable. You are free to stop working at any point. Contracts are likely to be drawn up for six months with the possibility for extension.

How would I handle patients’ requests for extra medication?

While there are currently no reported medicine shortages as a result of COVID-19, doctors may face requests from patients for extra medication to stockpile. Medical Defence Organisations have advised doctors to resist pressure to overprescribe and to stick to existing policy on repeat prescribing unless they receive official advice stating otherwise.

Source: NHS England, Frequently asked questions for returning doctors [ accessed on 26 March]

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