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GPs go forth

British GP unable to work in NHS as GMC says laws are 'not fit for purpose'

Exclusive A British GP who trained and practised for 20 years in Australia has been prevented from working in the NHS under legislation the GMC has called 'not fit for purpose'. 

The GMC will not automatically recognise the qualifications of GP Dr Benjamin Tarsh in the way it would if he had trained within the European Economic Area (EEA) - despite Dr Tarsh having been a GP tutor and examiner of fellowship candidates at the Australian equivalent of the RCGP. 

Instead GPs from outside the EEA are legally required to provide the GMC with evidence that their qualifications are ‘equivalent’ to those of GPs who trained in the UK, which is then assessed by the RCGP.

Dr Tarsh said the rules meant he had effectively been 'barred' from working in the NHS because since November 2018 he has been unable to get hold of key documents from a GP practice he used to work at back in Australia, which is not legally obliged to provide them.

The GMC admitted to Pulse that the current legislation was not 'fit for purpose' and it was doing 'everything we can' to support the growth of the GP workforce in the UK.

Dr Tarsh said he had encountered ‘unnecessarily excessive bureaucracy’ while planning his return to the UK, and has urged regulatory bodies to rethink their rules.

The rules stopping Dr Tarsh from working in the NHS come at a time of an ongoing GP shortagethe RCGP's calls for 5,000 more GPs to meet workforce targets, and the BMA predicting the worst winter in NHS history

Una Lane, director of registration and revalidation at the GMC, said: ‘The current legislation is not fit for purpose and makes it very challenging for GPs who qualified outside the EEA to register as GPs here.

‘We are doing everything we can to support the growth of our GP workforce and we have worked closely with the RCGP to streamline and simplify the process for GPs qualified in Australia, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand.'

She added: ‘We are pleased that the Department of Health and Social Care has committed to changing legislation in this area and we look forward to working with them in developing a system that will benefits GP from overseas who wish to work here while maintaining the standards that all patients have a right to expect from their doctors.’

Dr Tarsh recently completed an MA in medical ethics and law at King's College London, which focused on NHS commissioning and resource allocation. He said he hopes the reforms will bring about improvements for the sake of both NHS patients and 'overwhelmed staff’.

He told Pulse: ‘If the Government truly wants to recruit highly-qualified Australian-trained GPs to the NHS, they urgently need to fix the current insurmountable legal obstacles.

‘In my view, they should accept the RCGP's recognition that GPs trained under appropriately-approved Royal Australian College of GP's curriculums have received equivalent training.

‘For added confidence and to ensure applicants have an appropriate medical regulatory record, these doctors could provide certificates of "good standing" from the Australian Health Professionals Regulation Agency and a duly-certified copy of their qualifications to the GMC as the sole requirements for equivalence registration.’

The GMC recently announced that from 2023 it will introduce a new skills test for overseas medical students wanting to practise in the UK, which it expects will boost recruitment.

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Readers' comments (31)

  • I imagine the GMC thought your Name sounded like you may not be caucasian, having reflected on their treatment of Baba Garba they decided to reduce the risk by not admitting you!

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  • That's nothing, even British-born, British Trained, British Qualified, British GPs who have taken a couple of years put to work overseas are not allowed to come back; which IS just as well, while working conditions here are such as to make them ill if they did!

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  • Pathetic attempt by the GMC to avert attention to the widely acknowleged fact that they are the real "NOT FIT FOR PURPOSE" organisation.

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  • How much is really down to legislation and how much the GMC’s interpretation of it? The amount of evidence required by the GMC of Australia and New Zealand trained GPs is absurd, amounting to several hundred pages. Can Pulse investigate further and check what the legislation actually says?

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  • Don’t come the UK it’s the pits for medics in both primary and secondary care.

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  • ‘The profession only has itself to blame though by standing by whilst we are pulled apart and suffocated by educationalist and regulatory red tape.’
    So that would be the ‘deaf, dumb, blind, high-achieving, hyper-intelligent, highly socially committed bag of autistic cats’???

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  • @ BAP | GP Partner/Principal05 Dec 2019 7:32pm

    Good point.

    Was the writer discriminated against because of his name? It would certainly seem so and I would tend to give him the benefit of the doubt.

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  • Likewise, the GMC has asked government to remove legislation that asks them to investigate every complaint that comes their way rather engage local resolutions , but the gov wont change it. So yet again GMC cant do much!

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  • GMC really said that something else 'was not fit for purpose'?

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  • to everyone who is engaging with this debate, thank you. Your input is what will give this traction. If you can keep this issue alive and force your MPs to confront it, then just maybe the NHS, and the GMC can start turning the corner. I believe for the future, it is essential that urgent reform occurs.

    I am well aware of the shortcomings in the NHS and the difficulties with respect to practice, and despite this, the pull of my family is a key motivator. Never underestimate the importance of being close to those that you love as they reach the end of their lives.

    In my life I have benefitted from the care that the NHS has provided - especially as a child and a teenager growing up in the UK. I would like to give back to it, but I recognise that the current situation, without urgent and wholesale reform will make this super hard.

    The is an element of Hobson's choice, my medical career vs my terminally ill parents. The GMC and the current regulatory system is a cruel and inappropriate "bedfellow".

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