NHS England has announced a new initiative to help retain GPs in the shape of a £10 million fund designed to capture those considering leaving general practice.

Some £7 million will be streamed through regional-based schemes designed to help GPs to remain in the workforce, by promoting new ways of working and by offering additional support through a new Local GP Retention Fund.

An additional £3 million will underpin the establishment of seven intensive support sites across the country in areas that have struggled most to retain GPs, with further details on this to be announced next month, NHS England said.

The move follows the launch last year of The GP Retention Scheme to support GPs unable to work more than four sessions per week and when a regular part-time role does not meet the doctor’s need for flexibility, as well as the The GP Health Service to support doctors and trainee GPs experiencing mental health and addiction issues.

NHS England said the initiatives are in addition to significant investment to attract new GPs to practices, including providing more training places and an international programme to recruit 2,000 GPs by 2020.

Research conducted for the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) by Ipsos MORI last year revealed that 39 percent of its members thought they are unlikely to be working in the profession in England in five years’ time.

The College warned that this could prove to be breaking point for the profession unless progress in delivering the GP Forward View - which has pledged 5,000 more full-time equivalent family doctors by 2020 - is accelerated.

“We know that general practice is in the midst of a recruitment and retention crisis, as doctors face the pressures of rising demand, low resources and increasing administrative burden, leaving many with rock-bottom morale and what they feel is no choice but to leave the profession or reduce their time with patients,” noted Dr Richard Vautrey, British Medical Association GP committee chair.

“Local initiatives that aim to hold on to the valuable workforce that keeps high-quality, community-based generalised care running on a daily basis are vital for the future of general practice,” he said, but also stressed “while limited schemes can help, the key to significant change will be a commitment to longstanding recurrent resources.

“This funding is important, but NHS England must ensure that it is not spread too thinly and commissioners must work closely with LMCs to maximise its impact.”

“We hope these plans are just the start of more initiatives that tackle escalating GP workload, and that they are implemented with as little red tape as possible,” added RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard.

“We also want to see more options and greater flexibility for experienced GPs, particularly those who might be considering leaving the profession, so that our patients can continue to benefit from their expert skills – and newer GPs can continue to learn from them.”