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Migration body blocks attempts to solve GP shortage problems through recruiting from abroad

A migration advisory group has blocked attempts to include general practice on a list of professions to be preferentially recruited from abroad, claiming that plans already in place to incentivise medical students to become GPs would address current shortfalls.

GPs were not included in the recommended additions to Shortage Occupation List (SOL) – which recommends areas where migration from outside the European Economic Area could address skill shortages – after a review by an advisory committee published today.

Evidence from the DH suggested that GP shortages were partly due to medical students passing over general practice to seek ‘more exciting roles’ in the NHS, as well as regional working preferences and changes to the working patterns of the current GP workforce.

Pulse recently revealed that the number of applications for GP training places nationwide had fallen for the second year in a row, and last year 12% of available GP training places remained unfilled.

Pulse also revealed that NHS England was already taking out adverts in Australian medical journals in a bid to entice back GPs who had emigrated.

But the report by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) states that there is no shortage of medical students, and that the DH has already initiated a plan to incentivise medical students to opt for GP training – as part of a raft of measures for addressing GP recruitment and retention announced last month.

It adds that including GPs on the SOL list would depend on the outcome of these initiatives.

The report says: ‘For GPs, there is a long-term issue caused by three separate factors. First, a failure to attract sufficient trainees: the Department of Health (DH) told us that medical graduates seek more exciting roles in the healthcare system. Second, difficulties attracting GPs to some geographic areas of the UK, especially as the present stock retire. Third, work-life balance issues caused by the increased feminisation of the workforce and the shift towards salaried rather than partner GP positions.

‘DH have identified a requirement of 3,280 GP trainees per year. Presently they are falling short by some 400. We were not told of any overall shortage of students flowing through our medical schools. Therefore any shortage of GPs can be addressed by changing the incentive structure such that the GP route becomes more attractive relative to the hospital consultant route.

‘The DH has initiated such a plan. Therefore, rather than immediately putting GPs on the SOL, we suggest waiting and evaluating the success of this DH initiative.’

Commenting on the decision, RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker said: ‘We are pleased that the Migration Access Committee has drawn attention to the chronic shortage of family doctors in the UK, but we are disappointed at its lack of action to rectify the problem by unlocking the potential of skilled medical professionals in the many countries that have similar health systems to ours.’

Chair of the MAC, Professor Sir David Metcalf, said: ‘We recognise that there is a shortfall in the numbers of GPs being trained but consider that the solution to this is in the hands of the health service.’

Please note - this article originally stated that the DH had blocked attempts to include GPs on the Shortage Occupation List. This was not the case. The article was changed at 11:15 on 26 February 2015.

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Readers' comments (54)

  • NHS England should give incentives to practices based on the number of full-time GPs (full-time GP being - a GP working 9 clinical sessions where each clinical session is for 3hrs of seeing patients) employed in a surgery. Then the GP surgeries will try to employ full-time GP's as far as possible. The GP partners may also start working full-time.

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  • Nothing wrong with female part-time GPs... They are great. (Also nothing wrong with male part-time GPs for that matter... ) Looking after kids and elderly infirm parents at home when not at the surgery is no easy task. So, please do not knock female GPs who work part-time. My mother worked as a part-time GP whilst raising 6 kids whilst Dad was the full-time GP. Their practice was great- they were an excellent team and had many grateful patients... So mum working part-time was value adding to her life, her kids' lives and her patients' lives. And by the way, before she had kids, she worked so many over-time shifts in the hospitals (remember the the Friday am to Monday pm shifts) that I reckon she paid back her uni costs by the time she turned to part time. It is the UK GP system that is the problem, so don't lets blame the way different GPs practice-- we are all doing our bit. (written by male Aust-UK GP)

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  • I can totally understand @ 1.08 point of view.
    Times have changed, there is more support / help out there in the community to help elderly and with child care. With squeeze of NHS resources there is more stress on GPs on being clinically and economically effective. Encouraging part time GP working is not very economically effective for the NHS. As mentioned in one of the posts earlier Hospitals do not encourage part time consultants jobs.

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  • 9.01.
    What I do is, I allow 1st consultation and 2 follow ups for medically unrelated symptoms and pain everywhere and if nil achieved, I do not waste time. Just refer to the specialist

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  • Not sure why we have so many (or probably smae one with different user accounts) trolls on this thread.

    Not sure why "full time" is the only way to repay he tax payers. None of university graduates re expected to, and even if we did, in general practice, most "part time" partners work in excess of 37.5hours/week (i.e average working hours in uk?)

    Try doing 9 sessions as GP partner - most that's advocating this wont last a month. I do 8 sessions + CCG work and my working hours are nearing 55-60hrs/week now

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  • Took Early Retirement

    Dear Troll,

    I qualified in 1980. I paid back the government for my training very rapidly by working in often inhuman conditions, so tired at times I FELT SUICIDAL, and all for very low pay with "overtime" paid at 1/3 of my basic pay so my hourly rate was lower than a cleaner's. After that I paid masses of tax to partly fund a useless cohort of administrators, so the country owed ME. That's why I left early.

    Ash not what you can do for your country; rather ask what your country should be doing for you.

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  • I left the NHS 3 years ago and will spend my next 35 years paying taxes to the Australian government, not the despicable UK government. I will return to the UK to 'pay back' my training when every other profession including overseas lawyers, solicitors, bankers, accountants, nurses, engineers, IT experts and god knows who else are made to do the same.

    If being a GP was actually easy and well paid we would all be staying put and keeping a low profile. That's not exactly what is happening is it? Wave after wave of early retirement and emigration.

    I don't known how daily mail journalists can live with themselves. They know exactly what they are doing and the effects this has on the country. Utterly shameful

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  • Let's just get the record and narrative straight shall we? A 6 session partner will work at least 37 hours a week. The last time I looked this was full time. Many if you are advocating that GPs should work more than full time. Are we made of different metal that can withstand getting burnt out? It is not just women who are reducing their sessions for sustainability- virtually all newly qualified men are too because they are sensible. But then they realise a full time career pays a pittance so they locum or work abroad.
    The issues are obvious so why are the solutions so difficult?

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  • There are a number of advantages in having part-timers in a practice. Part time sessional working allows practices to enlarge organically as their population grows without always needing more consultation space. If a part timer goes off sick, less sessions need back filling (covering 9 sessions with locums is a nightmare). Likewise part-timers are often happy to step up sessions when the need arises. Part time GPs only get paid on a pro-rata basis. The last time I looked, live in a free country so it seems entirely appropriate to allow flexible working practices. This shouldn't be considered a cost to the NHS, the government just need to accept is is our responsibility to train enough doctors, we already have a relatively low number per capita than our competitors and poaching them from developing countries is not always ethical.

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  • Suddenly we seem to have forgotten all the doctors we pinched from other countries over the years. No thought to their tax payers. And it is absurd for anyone to even suggest what an individual should do ie work full time. It is a free country so you can choose the levels of work you are comfortable with. I am not physically able to do 12-13 hour 5 days. I can do 3. that is that.

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