‘We need to expand retention initiatives; not stop the ones we have’ says College Chair

College Chair, Professor Kamila Hawthorne, featured in GPonline today responding to the planned cessation of two GP retention initiatives: the GP Fellowship programme and the Supporting Mentors scheme.

Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "Any intention to close the General Practice Fellowship and Supporting Mentors schemes for new applicants is both surprising and very disappointing, particularly at a time when we need to be doing absolutely everything we can to keep GPs in the workforce, delivering patient care – and we're unaware of any immediate plans to replace them. If this is going ahead, we need to understand the rationale and what comes next to make sure we can retain as many GPs as possible in the workforce. It is vital that newly qualified GPs are given the opportunity to settle into a practice and learn the ropes - we hope that if these schemes are being wound down, then there are plans to replace them with something better and easier to access across the whole of England.

“GPs and our teams have just had the busiest November on record, delivering more than 31 million appointments – a 30% increase from the end of 2019, yet with 646 fewer fully qualified, full-time equivalent GPs. There is escalating patient need for our services, so we simply can’t afford to lose any more GPs. But a recent survey from the College found that 37% of GPs already thought it was unlikely that they would be working in general practice in the next five years.

“For those who are joining the profession, fellowship schemes can be valuable in broadening skills and experience, and mentoring programmes can be highly useful to learn from experienced GPs. If we don’t have initiatives in place to retain existing GPs and allow them to pass on their experience through mentoring programmes, we risk losing the valuable professional experience that has been vital in establishing and maintaining the high standards of care seen in general practice.

“We need to see immediate efforts to expand our retention initiatives, not to stop the ones we have, so that we can sustain our workforce, meet increasing demand, and guarantee that hard-earned practical experience is passed on to the next generation of GPs. Our manifesto outlines seven solutions – including appropriate resource allocation for recruitment and retention - that will help improve patient access to safe and timely care and ensure that there are enough GPs to safeguard the future of general practice and the wider NHS.”

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Notes to editors

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 54,000 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.