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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Government drags its feet over easing GP jobs crisis

The Government is exacerbating the GP shortage by failing to fast-track a flood of overseas doctors who want to work as GPs in Britain.

Latest figures from the Joint Committee on Postgraduate Training for General Practice show inquiries about and applications for GP certificates are the highest for a decade.

Inquiries from overseas doctors doubled in 2002. But despite this there was only a small rise in the number of certificates issued.

The bottleneck has been blamed partly on the Department of Health's failure to approve a new system to fast-track overseas applicants, pro- posed by the committee in June.

GPC negotiator Dr Laurence Buckman said: 'I think it shows the Government's lack of urgency in dealing with a situation that is deteriorating day by day.'

Latest figures showed a 40 per cent rise in the total number of inquiries about the GP certificate, while inquiries from overseas doctors doubled from 656 in 2001 to 1,314 in 2002.

Applications rose 26 per cent overall while those from overseas doctors rose a staggering 78 per cent, up from 386 in 2001 to 689 last year. Some 60 per cent of the certificates issued were to women.

But the increase in certificates issued was tiny by comparison ­ just 7 per cent. There was an even smaller increase (4 per cent) in the number of certificates issued to overseas GPs.

Committee chief executive Katie Carter said the fast-track proposal would enable overseas family doctors from countries with similar health systems, such as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, to have a shorter induction

period.

Ms Carter told Pulse: 'We are not getting them through as quickly as we would like. It's very frustrating. If deaneries can be sure they have the money then we are willing to go ahead.'

Dr Pat Lane, director of postgraduate GP education at the deanery of South Yorkshire and South Humber, said: 'There is no formal mechanism of funding the process. If overseas GPs want to be paid while they train in this way the department needs to find a mechanism for that.'

Inquiries:

2001 1,535

2002 2,143

Up 40 per cent

From overseas GPs

2001 656

2002 1,314

Up 100 per cent

Applications

2001 2,153

2002 2,711

Up 26 per cent

From overseas

2001 386

2002 689

Up 78 per cent

Certificates issued

2001 1,787

2002 1,907

Up 7 per cent

To overseas GPs

2001 201

2002 210

Up 4 per cent

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