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NHS England looks to recruit 2,000 GPs from overseas to offset retirements

NHS England is increasing the target for its overseas recruitment programme from 500 to around 2,000.

It is understood this includes GPs from the EU and from other overseas countries, and comes as part of the Government’s pledge to deliver 5,000 more GPs by 2020.

As first revealed by Pulse, the GP Forward View had committed NHS England to recruiting up to 500 GPs from overseas in a bid to help achieve the goal.

The expanded programme, due to launch this autumn, could see GPs targeted from the EU, Australia and New Zealand.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens told HSJ: 'Although there are some good signs of progress on increases in the GP training scheme, nevertheless there are real pressures around retirements.

'The conclusion we’ve come to is that in order to increase the likelihood of being able to have 5,000 more doctors in general practice, we are going to need… a significantly expanded industrial scale international recruitment programme. We intend to launch that in the autumn.'

He added: 'Rather than the current 500 or so GPs that are being targeted for international recruitment…it probably needs to be four times more than that, from international sources - [from the] rest of the EU and possibly New Zealand and Australia.'

NHS England launched a £30m contract tender for companies to bid to help recruit GPs from the EU earlier this month, expanding the programme from an initial £20m budget. The contract runs from 25 September this year for three years until 2020.

GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey told Pulse: 'Clearly they haven’t secured the increase of GPs in line with progress to the 5,000 GP goal, so far. So they’re considering all options.

'This is a dedicated international recruitment initiative, the International GP Recruitment Programme, this is an expansion of that but I don’t know if they’re going to expand the funding as well.

'I think it is a sign that they are serious about trying to address the low number of GPs, and we have to use all means possible to attract and retain them.'

Some 25 GPs from overseas have already been brought over to Lincolnshire as part of NHS England’s pilot scheme. 

The GPs have been guaranteed an annual salary of £90,000 and a ‘generous relocation package’ to move to England to work.

GP practices in Hull have also been invited to express their interest in recruiting EU GPs and Essex announced plans to recruit 20 GPs from from Portugal, Spain, Romania, Czech Republic and Slovakia, in an effort to curb recruitment issues that have plagued the county for several years.

Pulse recently reported that the NHS in Scotland is also looking to recruit GPs from the EU as Dumfries and Galloway enlisted a medical agency to help fill 20 empty posts with EU doctors.

The UK’s decision last summer to leave the EU did cast some doubt over NHS England’s plans – with recruiters warning that the referendum result could put off potential applicants – but NHS England has since confirmed that it was looking to expand the scheme.

The overseas recruitment drive is also at odds with the Government’s plan for the NHS to become less reliant on foreign doctors and in the long term ‘self-sufficient’ in producing medical staff.

Dr Vautrey said: 'They’ve made a commitment to increase medical school placements by 1,500 per year, but it’s going to take a long time to turn those students into doctors. That’s a long-term solution to this problem.

'But we need to look at short-term solutions as well, not least addressing the workload pressure within general practice so we make the job itself more appealing to doctors who have trained within the NHS when they’re making career choices.'

He added that 'applying a sticking plaster by recruiting doctors from abroad can only offer a limited short-term fix, especially when there is uncertainty over freedom of movement following the UK’s exit from the EU'.

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Readers' comments (32)

  • 5.18pm - that is a delightful idea, however the Antipodes has slightly modified its entry requirements. Criminal, antisocial and political recidivism are no longer favoured.

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  • Hello prospective GP it's not that bad really. The pay is reasonable most patients are grateful to see you and pleasant. You are highly regarded and the IT systems are improving.
    But the system will have choked in 2 years politicians and our own colleagues have medicalised everything but breathing (and that's on the way) we have created a massive demand and taken and notion of self care and risk away from people. This a claim culture, frustration with the system and the bottom dwelling scum feeders known as ambulance chasers are taking away the essence of primary care. Come try it and take back the lessons learnt to your homes so you don't ever repeat them.

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  • Glad I resigned

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  • Tantalus

    Instead of trawling the globe for other countries doctors, why not make the job here a bit less crap and then you might find that the early retirements slow down.....just a thought !

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  • Why would a foreign professional come to an openly xenophobic country whose economy and currency are tanking in the race to the bottom.Where if you make a mistake because of pressure and volume of work you can lose your career or be imprisoned.Where for the last fourteen years your income is at best static if not retreating.Where the press/politicians/tin pot burocrats/patients/pressure groups can bully or harass you and tell you how to do your job..A policy doomed to fail when there is no new money to pay for it, and the current hamsters on the wheel will be asked to pay out or their funding to fund this conscription.Any expat who ran away from this mess would be desperate to come back knowing nothing had changed in the UK.Another terminal twitch from the rapidly dying corpse of NHS primary care!.

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  • Entirely typical of RCGP to support an attempt to avoid making the job attractive enough to recruit and retain UK trained doctors. Presumably salivating over a golden opportunity to fleece anyone foolish enough to come with extortionate exam and course fees.

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  • Every country trains its own people to become qualified healthcare professionals such as doctors and nurses for serving their own people in their own country. It is immoral for us to entice and recruit these professionals to work in UK leaving their patients behind to suffer due to shortages of healthcare professionals in their own conutry. I believe there should be an international effort to ban any recruitment of healthcare professionals from overseas.

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  • It's sad to see what's happening to General Practice here. I suppose we GP's are a lot to blame. We have allowed ourselves to be treated this way. Throughout the world and even in developing countries the trend is that salaries are going up. Salaries for UK doctor's used to be 15-20 times compared to doctor's in India. And now that gap has narrowed down sharply. Living standards are much better in other countries. People are saving better in other countries. We are probably the only country where it is acceptable that our salaries are going down. Indemnity is going up, inflation is up, complaints are rising...

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  • 'NHS England launched a £30m contract tender',

    let's see where the money goes. More snouts in the trough. £30m would go a long way towards the increase in indemnity costs that UK GPs are sucking up at the moment, but is likely to line the pockets of the old school mob. A fact-finding PR visit to Oz obviously required for RCGP celebs.

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  • The elephant in the room - the NZ and Australian GP qualifications are not even recognised by the GMC. Where will all these enthusiastic antipodes work with a qualification that the GMC obviously considers to be substandard? I'm thinking of applying for GP training here, I won't have much choice but to stay once I do. Oh well!

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