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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Overseas GP recruitment scheme highlights the Government's failure

Deputy editor Jaimie Kaffash

The Government has known for years that we need more GPs. Former health secretary Andrew Lansley made a pledge back in 2012 to increase the number of medical graduates coming through the system, with a target of 3,250 by 2015.

Even despite this, when health secretary Jeremy Hunt first announced that the Government was going to increase the GP workforce by 5,000 in five years, it smacked a little of politicking. Labour had a few weeks earlier announced that it was increasing the workforce by 8,000 and, with patients beginning to notice longer waiting times and shorter appointment slots, Mr Hunt had little choice but to be seen to make an effort.

The Conservative Party, he said, were drawing up ‘plans to train and retain an extra 5,000 GPs’.

But this target has been an albatross around his neck. It has been continually shifting, from ‘5,000 GPs’ to ‘5,000 doctors working in general practice’ (allowing them to include trainee GPs in their figures), to emphasising a need to be ‘flexible’ in the target.

Now, the DH and NHS England have given up any pretence that they will ‘train and retain’ GPs. Instead, they admit, 3,000 of these 5,000 GPs could come from abroad. Lansley’s medical graduates target has long since failed. 

This overseas recruitment, in itself, is not a bad policy from NHS England. It is almost admirable that they recognise there is an emergency in general practice and they need urgent measures that will benefit practices immediately – not in four or five years.

Because previous attempts have failed. No one would argue with measures such as making it easier for people to return to UK general practice, incentives to remain in general practice and recruitment campaigns. But they have been implemented half-heartedly - a few thousands of pounds here, a poorly thought out poster there. And the latest workforce figures - which reveal numbers of GPs have gone down since September 2015, are testament to this.

But all GPs know the real ways to attract and retain GPs and keep general practice sustainable. It’s reversing the trends that have seen general practice defunded, work loaded on to practices, indemnity costs soaring and regulation continuing to increase. But there is little concerted effort to actually make this happen.

The overseas GP scheme highlights politicians’ failures. And as long as politicians ignore the tough – but effective – measures that GPs are demanding, they will have to rely on these short-term fixes.

Jaimie Kaffash is deputy editor of Pulse magazine

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Readers' comments (6)

  • The comment "This overseas recruitment, in itself, is not a bad policy from NHS England. It is almost admirable that they recognise there is an emergency in general practice and they need urgent measures that will benefit practices immediately – not in four or five years." is tosh! - Of course it's bad - it represents the 'rape and pillage' of other healthcare systems which have trained their doctors presumably so that thy can support patients in their own country. Or have we farmed out training elsewhere? (Which countries out there are currently training more doctors than they need so they can spare these to prop up the NHS? - My guess is that there are NONE and that for whatever reason - likely economic - some choose to work abroad - not exactly the best of recruitment and retention!) No wonder there is not going to be a condition of medical training in the UK that the new doctors say in the NHS for n years - that would be hypocracy...wouldn't it!?

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  • Jmd

    What a shame that the government failed to incentivise local graduates and other non principals to take these vacant positions.
    The recruitment from abroad have unanswered issues:
    1. Who pays for these GPS?
    2. How will they be allocated?
    3. What is the formula for allocation thriughout the country?
    4. Are these GPS for permanent residence?
    5. What induction and training will be offered to meet and translate the culture of this country to the incoming unfamiliar GPS?
    6.what is the government doing to sustain the existing GPS fro leaving or retiring early?
    7. There needs to be a register available to the public on number of complaints registered against these new recruits. This will indicate one of 2. Issues- 1. Competence perceived by public and 2. Discrimination against foreign recruits.

    It is sad that the country has to go abroad for recruitment when there students in this country who wants to become doctors and we not given the opportunities .

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  • Well said, Dr Aras!

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  • Sorry Dr Aras...YOUR comment is tosh. A primary medical degree (as opposed to law, history, fine art, economics degrees ) is basically a PASSPORT to any Labour market in the world (plus or minus local mutatis mutandis qualif adjustments)

    Your comment "rape and pillage" is over-emotive leftist claptrap.

    Have degree will travel...doctors are FREE to go and work wherever they wish. I went from England to Australia...i don't need your endorsement/ guilt-trip thank you very much.

    This is the reason medical degrees have a premium (over spending 3 years reading English Literature) as clinical medicine is near identical the world over

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  • If a job is good you do not need to 'force' people to apply or consider applying..... funny old thing, no shortage of investment bankers, footballers etc I hear being a Vice chancellor of a University is also a good option. We have this interesting contradiction where people at the top insist on 'market values' - believing they are with it, as opposed to actual evidence that the high pay actually equates to better outcomes (There is no evidence to support this ... I saw the VC of Oxford use this flawed argument) , whereas in General Practice its the front line team who actually make the difference and offer the best bang for the buck on a population basis, yet look at how they are valued, or should i say under-valued. Specialists drive up costs of health care, and when you have too many outcomes worsen due to 'too much medicine' and intervention, whereas the art of knowing when to do nothing (As the correct option) is immeasurable......

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  • Maverick

    Fine for the NHS governing bodies to seek to employ GPs from anywhere in order to stem the tide and plug the gaps that are appearing in our devastated and demoralised primary care health care system... so long as the employed replacements are working on equitable contracts and are suitably qualified. All foreign doctors should pass through the RCGP exam process without favour. They should then enter GP in the same way as UK graduates, no favours attached. Lets see how many foreign GPs that attracts.

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