Retired GPs have heard NOTHING since coronavirus applications

Retired GPs volunteering to return to the NHS to fight the coronavirus ‘have heard NOTHING since they applied last month’

  • One former doctor said there had been a ‘deafening silence’ since applying
  • Health Secretary said almost 12,000 retired workers were returning
  • But its not clear how many have actually stepped back into work
  • NHS England suggested they were struggling to cope with paperwork  
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Retired GPs who have volunteered to return to the NHS and fight the coronavirus pandemic say they haven’t heard anything since applying last month.

One frustrated former doctor said there had been a ‘deafening silence’ since they signed up, while another feels ‘useless and unwanted’. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said almost 12,000 retired NHS staff are returning to the health service after the Government’s plea for help.

But it’s not clear how many have actually reached the frontline since that figure was revealed on March 24.

A former GP accused Mr Hancock of spinning ‘a complete farce’ and ‘boasting’ about the numbers of retired medics returning.

NHS England apologised to retired GPs and suggested it was struggling to cope with paperwork for thousands of people.

Retired GPs who have volunteered to return to the NHS and fight the coronavirus pandemic say they haven’t heard anything since applying last month. Health Secretary Matt Hancock (pictured, April 21) said almost 12,000 retired NHS staff are returning to the health service

Dr Jules Foster, a 59-year-old GP who has been retired for 18 months, said she had been waiting for four weeks to hear back and felt ‘useless and unwanted’

The Government formally launched the ‘NHS needs you’ campaign on 20 March, urging more than 65,000 former NHS workers to return.

At the time there were around 3,300 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 144 people had died. Now, there are more than 130,000 cases and 18,000 deaths. 

The desperate call to the ‘NHS army’ was open to all clinical staff who had left the profession during the past three years. 

The General Medical Council (GMC) widened the search by extending its register, so that those who left the service between four and six years ago could return. 

It wrote to 15,500 doctors who have left the register since 2017, while the Nursing and Midwifery Council wrote to more than 50,000 nurses.

Volunteers have to fill in forms so that they will can be appropriately posted to roles according to their career and skills. 

NHS England said on 12 April that almost 5,000 former staff, including doctors, nurses and midwives, have rejoined the NHS. A further 10,000 have ‘completed checks’.

But GPs have told Pulse Magazine they are still waiting to hear back about joining the coronavirus battle. 

Dr Foster slammed Mr Hancock for boasting about how many retired NHS workers were returning, calling it a ‘complete farce’

The desperate call to retired staff was to help current NHS workers dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. Pictured, an NHS worker wearing a protective mask outside Watford Hospital 


Thousands of NHS doctors and nurses may have been given inaccurate coronavirus tests, it has emerged.

A leaked Public Health England document revealed testing centres had been told to stop using the kits because of ‘quality assurance difficulties’.

The memo warned the results were less reliable than initially thought – sparking fears for the near-100,000 NHS and social care workers who have been tested.

It means thousands of them could have returned to work with vulnerable patients while still contagious.

The document from April 11, seen by The Daily Telegraph, said the tests run by PHE and NHS laboratories had produced a few ‘discordant results’.

Scientists have been told to stop using them by tomorrow and switch to commercial kits. They must double-check all ambiguous results.

Health officials at PHE insist the tests were not faulty and say the problem was that there were ‘quality assurance difficulties’ caused by shortages of swabs and transport.

Experts said that PHE’s approach – outsourcing all the different pieces of kit – leaves margin for error in the results, whereas tests used by commercial firms are more ready-made.

PHE had previously boasted that it was one of the first in the world to produce a sensitive test and roll it out nationwide. 

Health officials said it found the test produced different results to alternative commercial tests in only 2 per cent of samples from one of the labs.

Professor Sharon Peacock, of PHE’s national infection service, said: ‘No diagnostic test is 100 per cent sensitive. It is standard practice to move to commercial test kits once available.’

A senior Whitehall official told The Telegraph that PHE ‘want to be in control of everything’.

They added: ‘That’s a problem. They’ve taken too long to involve the academic and private sector, and so we’ve relied on the home brew test for too long… they waited for too long to open their arms to universities and private companies, and now we’re scrambling to catch up.’ 

Dr Dominique Thompson, a Bristol-based GP who retired in 2017, said: ‘It’s a deafening silence, which is so frustrating. I just had an email from a “no reply” address more than three weeks ago, saying I would hear in three days.’

‘I don’t understand why they haven’t at least sent us all some online training to do, while they do our DBS checks.’

Dr Thompson, who brought her wedding forward to focus on the pandemic, last heard from NHS England on March 30.

The automated message said: ‘Some of you may have already been contacted by our Regional Bring Back Staff hub, but just in case you haven’t heard from us, we are sorry about this and we are writing to reassure you that a member of one of our regional teams will be in touch with you within the next three days.’

Dr Una Coales, who retired from clinical practise in 2015, re-registered with the GMC and was told she was back on a month ago.

She completed a linked survey on March 27 and is still waiting to be given the next steps. 

‘All I know is I’m to expect to be contacted according to the GMC email dated 27 March,’ she said. ‘But I have not received anything from NHS England as of today (20 April).’

Meanwhile, Dr Jules Foster, who retired as a GP only 18 months ago, said she had been waiting for four weeks to hear back.

She wrote on Twitter: ‘I had an email saying they would call me within 2-3 days. Feeling useless and unwanted!’

She also slammed Mr Hancock for boasting about how many retired NHS workers were returning, calling it a ‘complete farce’. 

An NHS England spokesperson said ‘thousands of applications’ were being processed as rapidly as possible. 

Capita has been in charge the return to work scheme. The company claimed they had ‘mobilised resources very quickly’. 

An NHS England statement on April 16 claimed 1,000 medics in the Midlands were ‘back on the frontline to tackle the outbreak’.

But it goes on to say they ‘have been given access to full induction and training material to help them hit the ground running’. 

Many former NHS workers rejected the offer to return to work this March due to concerns about protection from the virus.

Due to being over the age of 60, they are considered vulnerable to COVID-19, especially if they have an underlying health condition.  

The full NHS England statement said: ‘The NHS is now processing these thousands of applications as quickly as possible, making sure returners are matched to where their skills are most needed, so returning staff can get back on the front line and start doing what they do best.’

A Capita spokesperson said: ‘We can confirm that we are supporting the NHS to help vet and onboard thousands of returning nurses and doctors as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.

‘At Capita, we’ve been responding to a number of requests from the Government to assist in the fightback against the coronavirus.

‘In this instance, we mobilised resources very quickly to respond to a critical NHS need; and have already enabled hundreds of returning clinicians to be deployed on the frontline.’

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