NHS back-to-work scheme may be scrapped

The government has reportedly scrapped a ground-breaking scheme designed to get more women to return to work in the NHS.

Funds intended for the scheme are understood to have been held back to pay for NHS deficits while another scheme to provide “golden hellos” for returning to work was scrapped last year, according to The Times.

Women make up more than half of new graduates from medical schools, but their careers are often interrupted by child-bearing and the demands of bringing up a family.

To make the NHS a better employer for those wanting to work part time, or returning after a career break, posts were subsidised from central funds for up to five years.

More than 2,500 doctors have made use of the flexible career scheme since it began in 2001, and the British Medical Association has now asked for a meeting with ministers to discuss the way forward.

A spokeswoman denied that the department was scrapping the scheme but admitted that it was no longer being handled centrally and no funding had been agreed.

“The flexible careers scheme has not been abolished,” she said. “As indicated last year, we are in the process of devolving it to strategic health authorities (SHAs) so that flexible working arrangements meet local needs, rather than being centrally driven.

“We are currently discussing handover details and processes with SHAs and will be writing to them shortly to finalise arrangements, including the level of central funding.”

Meanwhile, a Treasury document, leaked to the Financial Times, has revealed that NHS doctors and nurses are among the best paid in the world. It says ministers must now secure corresponding productivity gains in return.

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