Left the Medical Register in the Last 3 Years? 'Your NHS Needs You'

Nicky Broyd

March 20, 2020

The General Medical Council (GMC) is writing to doctors who may be able to help the NHS tackle the  coronavirus pandemic. There are around 15,500 qualified and experienced doctors with a UK address, who left the register or gave up their licence within the last 3 years, who could be eligible to return.

Action would be taken under Section 18a of the Medical Act 1983 which allows the Secretary of State for Health to ask regulators to automatically grant temporary registration to non-practising doctors.

The GMC’s Director of Registration and Revalidation, Una Lane, said in a statement: "Temporary registration allows doctors to work in the NHS, but it would be up to each individual whether or not to do so. Doctors can opt out for any reason and they can change their mind at any time."

The NHS is also appealing to nurses in a similar situation to come back to help with the "greatest global health threat" in a century.

'NHS Army'

Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director for the NHS, commented: "It is only right we use every means at our disposal to bolster the frontline in the face of this unprecedented challenge for the NHS."

Returnee doctors to what's been called the "NHS army" will get a full induction and online training "to help them to hit the ground running".

They'll be on a contract that according to an NHS statement "reflects standard terms and conditions such as working hour protections, pay arrangements, and annual leave entitlement".

No GMC fees or revalidation are involved.

Some of the doctors being contacted may have quit because of the controversial pensions taper which penalised extra shifts.

"The potential deployment of these doctors, and any questions relating to their pay or pensions, are matters for the NHS and the UK Governments," Una Lane said.

There were worries about older doctors being at greater risk from the virus. The GMC said around 32% of those being contacted were 44 or younger, and 40% aged 45-64.

If there were concerns about the move allowing back doctors who quit before being investigated, the GMC stressed it is "only contacting those doctors who are of good standing. So that means only those doctors with no outstanding complaints, sanctions, or conditions".

Doctors' Concerns

Chair of the Doctors' Association UK, Dr Rinesh Parmar, said in a statement: "This letter is a positive first step and will enable doctors to carefully consider their own position and whether they would be able to return to practise. Returning doctors however will have a number of important questions which the GMC cannot answer.

"With concerns over a lack of personal protective equipment already being raised by practising doctors, many considering a return may be concerned about their own safety. The impact on their pensions and terms and conditions are also not clear. The Government must urgently publish a full guide addressing all these concerns if they are to allay fears and encourage retired doctors back to the frontline."

Medical Students Pitch In

Qualified medical students are already being fast-tracked to help with COVID-19. Now another group of medical students have found a way to pitch in: chores and babysitting for doctors and nurses.

Co-ordinator, Connor Tugulu, a 4th year student at UCL Medical School, said: "Over the next few weeks and months key health workers could face longer shifts and last-minute changes to rotas and having a network of 'ready to go' babysitting, childcare and household support could become essential, if they are to remain on the frontline in these challenging times."

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