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NHS pushes on with EU GP recruitment despite 'homegrown' doctor pledge

NHS England is set to push ahead with its plan to recruit hundreds of GPs from Europe, despite health secretary Jeremy Hunt's pledge last week for the NHS to start relying on 'homegrown' doctors.

NHS England director of primary care Dr Arvind Madan said a scheme which is currently being piloted in Lincolnshire, first revealed by Pulse in June, is to become 'a blueprint' for similar schemes across the country.

His comments come as Pulse has learned that a separate scheme, run by a private recruitment firm, could begin bringing over its first of several hundred European GPs in a matter of weeks.

Speaking at the annual RCGP conference on Thursday, NHS England director of primary care Dr Arvind Madan outlined some of NHS England actions to boost GP numbers, adding that 'one that is of particular interest is the international recruitment campaign.’

He said: ‘Previous attempts at this have not been particularly successful, but the work that we are doing with Lincolnshire, where we will hopefully develop a blueprint that can be used across the country, is interesting in as much as that it actually involves induction, in the host country, around what general practice in the UK is like, and what working in the NHS is like.

'And also some cultural training – and I have visions of them being force fed episodes of Coronation Street and Eastenders. Help and support once they come to the UK with the practical things, so housing, jobs for their spouses, schooling, to help them stick, and join those communities.’

Pulse revealed in June that Lincolnshire LMC had been working with European medical recruiters to attract GPs to work in the county, and the GP Forward View outlined NHS England’s plan to attract 500 GPs of its 5,000 GP target from overseas.

Earlier last week, Mr Hunt announced a 25% increase in training places at UK medical schools and a mandatory four years of NHS service upon qualification, so that the NHS could become less reliant on foreign doctors and, eventually, 'self-sufficient'.

The North East has been one of the areas that has had most difficulty filling its places on GP training schemes and Lincolnshire LMC medical director Dr Kieran Sharrock told Pulse the Government’s plan to be self-sufficient in doctors was a long way off.

He said: ‘Jeremy Hunt is talking about making the NHS self-sufficient in doctors in ten years’ time, but for the next ten years we will still need to recruit doctors, nurses, other allied health professionals from all over the world.’

The recruitment firm which Lincolnshire LMC, NHS England and Health Education England works with has identified 20 candidates who could be suitable for the pilot, and these will undergo early assessments before being interviewed within the next two months, he added.

Initial training will take place at a campus in mainland Europe, with the GPs coming to the UK for an intensive week of completing GMC registrations, occupational health assessments and other processes.

Dr Sharrock told Pulse: ‘We’re looking to have them in the country in March-April, then they’ll have a six to 12 month supported training programme, followed by two years of support and mentoring.

He added they would be likely to begin going through the NHS Induction and Refresher assessments ‘towards the end of their first year’ on the scheme.

Meanwhile, a separate scheme previously revealed by Pulse involving recruitment consultancy Primary Care People (PCP) is set to bring over its first 15 European GPs 'in the next weeks'.

PCP, which has had talks with NHS England about ‘pipeline’ of 600 European GPs to join the NHS, ar offering an £80,000 training and support package to these doctors, who are coming from Portugal, Spain, Hungary and Romania.

They will be training full-time in London for the Induction and Refresher scheme, with their housing and living costs supported, and in the hope they will settle in the UK, will receive ongoing support and training.

Under the firm's plans, these GPs will be employed by PCP, and be contracted with practices as ‘interim GPs’ on £500 a day, four days a week for 12 months contracts.

Managing Director Tawhid Juneja told Pulse that while Jeremy Hunt was suggesting tying people to working in the NHS for four years, the firm's strategy was to 'make it an attractive option where GPs don’t want to leave us, rather than tying them in'.

Readers' comments (17)

  • First teach them English

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  • Ok guys, don't take your gall out on EU doctors, your contention is with Hunt and the government so please - while there is concern about EU doctors, remember there is an equal issue with some UK trained doctors - Shipman was not from EU. Putting everybody in the same bag and infighting doesn't help. You have precious contribution from most EU doctors and hope you can appreciate that. If there are underperforming colleagues we need to look closely and monitor them.
    Regards from an EU doctor running a 4000 patient Practice with good overall CQC rating and happy patients.

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  • Sanjeev is it not true that there were 400 EU doctors trying to qualify in MRCGP this year but continually were failing to do so? It is important that the UK standards are achieved before taking on GPs, not just putting bums on seats.

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  • With the Pound falling against the Euro, why would the EU doctors consider coming to the UK anyway.

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  • @PM: I have never attempted the RCGP for a simple reason - if I passed, I would have been tempted to keep that MRCGP title and have to pay for it for the rest of my life. Anyway, even some UK graduates have to make several attempts because the process is not clear and there is talk of bias. I am not aware of the numbers of people from EU attempting the exam but equally I am unaware of the number of UK graduates who have attempted and failed after having qualified in this system. I don't think this could work as a barometer to check competency. The fact remains, foreign trained graduates from anywhere have a harder task as they have not had the exam oriented training which home grown graduates have.

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  • Hunt's promise of providing UK born and educated doctors falls well short of the proportion of doctors from abroad currently working in the NHS. I was treated overnight Saturday to Sunday in a Sussex Hospital for an oesophageal spasm: the first doctor, the A&E doctor (from the Indian sub continent), tried initial treatment which failed to correct the spasm so I was driven to another Hospital where the Sri Lankan surgeon welcomed me and treated me overnight. By the morning, I could swallow again. The doctor there brought his boss, a UK or Irish born surgeon who was the head of his department, and both gave me good advice. I was discharged after having some breakfast. I would say that all these doctors/surgeons treated me with good humoured kindness, and with their high level of expertise, and I could find no fault in their good conduct. I do not want the foreign doctors in the NHS made to feel unwelcome. As far as I am concerned they are most welcome and have helped the NHS extremely well.

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  • Last week we heard JH saying he does not want foreign doctors. Back in the 60's doctors from Indian subcontinent rescued NHS, immigrants from Afro Caribbean areas came as labourers. Now EU doctors. Now look to EU for doctors, fail good UK trained doctors in MRCGP exams. When will the culture to use foreign doctors and yet criticise and look down on us will stop. If all outside doctors leave NHS will crush within seconds. It is doctors from outside the UK who serve the most rural areas and in unpopular specialities.

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