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BACK FROM A BREAK - support for GPs returning to practice

Many people consider taking a break from their career at some point and these days doing just that is often something not only accepted, but encouraged, by employers.

Certainly it is not uncommon for GPs to take some time out of clinical practice whether for family reasons, in order to travel, gain some professional development or just as a sabbatical – and now the focus has shifted to ensure returning to practice is as straightforward as possible.

The relaunched Induction and Refresher scheme helps GPs coming back to work and offers advice, training and support to those who have been away from the NHS for more than two years.

Dr Joanne Watt Senior PartnerIn the words of Dr Joanne Watt, a senior partner at Great Oakley Medical Centre in Corby as well as practicing retainer supervisor and member of the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG): “Bringing people back in to the practice who would otherwise be lost to the profession is  morally and practically the right thing to do.”

Dr Watt has demonstrated her support for this positive recruitment policy by snapping up colleagues, such as Dr Jackie Howell, from whatever sources – she found Dr Howell on Facebook and targeted her to help her back in to the system.

Dr Howell had swapped a small, village medical centre 14 years earlier, for the adventure of working for the Foreign Office overseas.

She said: “I joined the Foreign Office working overseas looking after diplomats and their families so I spent time in Bangladesh, Kenya and Ghana. It was a great experience and I’ve been involved in all sorts of things, including being in West Africa at the height of the Ebola outbreak.”

But with three growing children, Dr Howell decided that returning to the UK and the stability of general practice was what the family needed and they moved back to Northamptonshire.

She said: “I wasn’t really outside of the system but I wasn’t really in it either. I was a bit of a different case as I had still worked within the NHS, still had my GMC membership and just needed to get on the Performers List – so the refresher scheme wasn’t appropriate for me, but it’s a great resource for those that need it.”

With the support of colleagues at the Great Oakley practice in Corby where she now works part time, Dr Howell was able to settle back in to the UK and the job.

“It did take a bit of time, and you have to be prepared for that. There is a lot of admin and bureaucracy involved but once you’re in, it's a good place to be.

“The team here at the practice basically made it possible for me to do – they employed me in a non-clinical role while I was waiting to get on the list which gave me the chance to pick up on changes and developments I’d missed such as new computer systems.

“Their support and encouragement was what got me here really, the other doctors really helped to move the process along and now I’m really enjoying what I do – being back in the straightforward world of general practice.”

The BMA offers advice to potential career breakers, as well as those looking to return to practice, and there are schemes available to help with your return and the benefits of bringing that extra life experience back in to practice are being welcomed throughout the NHS.

“I’m really happy with what I’m doing now,” said Dr Howell.  “I’m still learning all the time. 14 years out of practice is a long time and a lot of things have changed but that’s one of the things that keep it interesting.”