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Independents' Day

NHS England reveals two thirds of 5k extra GPs could come from overseas

A contract note issued by NHS England regarding its £100m International GP Recruitment scheme admits, for the first time, that immigration is likely to provide the lion's share of GP expansion promised to the public by 2020.

This comes despite NHS England previously insisting that the decision to significantly expand the scheme, from an initial 500 GPs, was not an admission that existing workforce policies to deliver 5,000 additional GPs would fail to deliver.

Discussing the reasons in an interview with Pulse last month, national primary care director Dr Arvind Madan said it was 'not an admission' that NHS England would not live up to health secretary Jeremy Hunt's pledge.

But the Framework Agreement for the International GP Recruitment Scheme posted by NHS England said: ‘It is currently anticipated that between 2,000 and 3,000 of those 5000 GPs may be recruited from overseas.’

This contrasts with Mr Hunt’s first announcement of the scheme at the Conservative Party Conference 2014 where he said: ‘I can today confirm plans to train and retain an extra 5,000 GPs [by 2020].'

The pledge has had several reinventions since, but the Department of Health told Pulse that it had never explicitly excluded international recruitment and this has always been part of the plan.

But the ten-point workforce plan drawn up by NHS England and education bosses in early 2015 focused on measures to attract trainees, and supporting experienced GPs to stay. It did not include any plans for international recruitment, although there were efforts to streamline the process of returning to practise for NHS-trained GPs who had been working abroad.

Instead, the first NHS-backed plan to recruit international doctors came in the 2016 GP Forward View, which pledged 500 additional GPs. 

The BMA said the International Recruitment Scheme, although welcome, was a 'sticking plaster' which did not address the root cause of GP recruitment and retention problems.

BMA GP workforce lead Dr Krishna Kasaraneni said that although overseas doctors have long supported the NHS, this scheme would 'not address fully the huge shortfall in GP numbers'.

He told Pulse: 'There is a pattern of politicians not committing to investing in the health service and then setting unrealistic and constantly changing targets for NHS England which they inevitably struggle to meet.

'We need the Government to stop asking the NHS to find sticking plaster solutions to the workforce crisis that they created and instead start investing fully in GP services. That will improve patient experiences, that will encourage doctors to choose GP as a career, and that will address the problems facing the profession.’

This comes as the latest NHS Digital workforce statistics showed that the fulltime GP workforce has shrunk by 450 GPs since 2015, excluding trainees.

Readers' comments (17)

  • Vinci Ho

    Write that final number of new GPs recruited from overseas.
    Agent Hunt , you should swallow that piece of paper on live television. Now , that is British got talent.

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  • How many will stay once they realise the fairly barbaric treatment that GPs get from NHS England?

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  • David Banner

    They can recruit on Mars for all we care, just get them over here pronto before the unfilled vacancies accelerate the domino effect of collapse that is engulfing our profession.

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  • I wonder why his nose doesn't grow - is that what is called NHSE professionalism?

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  • Vinci Ho

    Sorry , have to quote this again from season finale of latest season of GOT:
    Jon Snow, ''But when enough people make false promises , words stop meaning anything. Then there are no more answer but better and better lies. And lies won't help us in this fight.''
    Tyrion Lannister,''That is indeed a problem. The more immediate problem is that we're fu*ked''

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  • There has been a bit of an about turn in GP training circles. An edict went out from HEE a few weeks ago that we must find new training places , usual impossible timescale etc etc , and then just as quickly the plan was put into reverse, no new training places required. I suspect its dawned on them that they have now run out of time and that importing is the only possible way to try to meet the target.

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  • Just privatise the whole thing and we will get our professional freedom back. NHSexit!

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  • Will these doctors be allowed to stay in UK permanently or kicked out once they are useless?

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  • Maverick

    So Jeremy Hunt is spending £100,000,000.00 to recruit 3,3300 foreign GPs into the UK, recently having sanctioned a £21,000,000.00 payment to "experts" to advise on budget savings. According to The NHS Confederation website this evening, the estimated NHS spend for 2017/2018 will be £123,817,000,000,000.00 (that's assuming that the definition of one billion pounds is one thousand million pounds and not one million million pounds). It may be worth clarifying the definition of one billion pounds, because if one billion pounds does equal one million million pounds, then the government will be spending £123,817,000,000,000,000.00 on the NHS in 2017/2018. I know, I hear you cry, it's just semantics, but I often get muddled when it comes to millions and billions. Recent Pulse GP contributers have mentioned that they receive (after tax) £10.00 (approx.ish) per patient consultation. Daily Mail press releases often talk of govennment spending £30bn (£30,000,000,000.00 or £30,000,000,000,000.00 depending on definition) for this project or that initiative blah blah blah but the billions of billions of millions of pounds just gets lost in the fog. Where does all this money go, what do these figures actually mean.... who cares? Rather than spend £100,000,000.00 on foreign GPs, why not spend £100,000,000,000.00 on the current work force infrastructure and save the NHS?

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