International recruitment drive for GPs expanded

HUNDREDS more GPs are to be recruited from abroad as NHS England steps up its campaign to boost workforce numbers.

A revised target to hire 600 overseas GPs has been set for 2017/18 and for a total of at least 2,000 by 2020/21. That compares to the initial target of just 500 doctors by 2020/21.

NHS England is calling on recruitment firms to join a framework to support the programme and has published a tender on the Official Journal of European Union (OJEU).

It has also established a GP International Recruitment Office to organise and run the scaled-up programme operation. It will coordinate the recruitment, support, and relocation of recruited doctors.

The expanded international recruitment scheme will initially focus on doctors in the European Economic Area (EEA) whose GP training is recognised in the UK under European law and already get automatic recognition to join the General Medical Council’s (GMC) GP register.

The Royal College of GPs is working with the GMC to review the curriculum, training and assessment processes for GPs trained outside the EEA, beginning with Australia, in a bid to streamline the registration process for those whose training is seen as equivalent to the UK GP programme.

The move is part of measures to fulfil the pledge in the General Practice Forward View report to recruit 5,000 more GPs and 5,000 more medical professionals into general practice by 2020.

Medical school places in England will increase by 25 per cent over the coming years but it will be some time before that translates into qualified GPs. It is hoped international recruitment will fill the gap in the meantime, as NHS England highlight the fact that around a fifth of existing GPs are international medical graduates.

A number of regional pilots have taken place so far. Lincolnshire is most advanced, recruiting 26 GPs against a target of 25, with Essex and Cumbria also currently taking part. Work is underway to expand the scheme into a further 11 areas across the country.

NHS England said any doctors recruited would be expected to meet “the highest standards of practice” including being able to speak good English and that support would be given to ensure this as well as help to relocate their families.

Dr Arvind Madan, GP and NHS England Director of Primary Care, said: “Most new GPs will continue to be trained in this country, and general practice will benefit from the 25 per cent increase in medical school places over the coming years.

“This scheme will deliver new recruits to help improve services for patients and reduce some of the pressure on hard working GPs across the country.”

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard added: “We welcome any GP from the EU or further afield who wants to work in UK general practice – as long as they meet the rigorous standards set by the College, General Medical Council and others to ensure safe clinical practice”.