Exclusive The NHS is looking to tempt GPs from European countries and is putting together a package of training and language support in a bid to tackle the recruitment crisis.
There has been a lot of interest from GPs in Spain, Poland, Romania and Italy, and GP leaders are working with recruitment firms and NHS managers in Lincolnshire to develop the scheme which will ‘inform recruitment’ across the country.
GP leaders said that the only way of increasing GP numbers in England as a whole is ‘going outside’, and that the upcoming EU referendum put added pressure on finding EU GPs sooner rather than later.
The GP Forward View announced that NHS England was looking to recruit around 500 GPs from overseas, after Pulse reported that health education leaders were in talks with a hospital group in India around the recruitment of GPs.
Pulse has learned that under the new scheme, suitable candidates could attend a campus in Europe that will develop their language skills for clinical practice, teach them about the NHS and prepare their professional registrations.
NHS England has said that successful applicants will have support and advice on finding schools, housing, and the getting to grips with ‘the taxation system’, as well as ongoing personal and education support.
An NHS England spokesperson told Pulse: ‘In Lincolnshire, the LMC, the CCGs and NHS England in the Central Midlands are working together to seek to recruit GPs from Europe. This will be on an ethical basis from countries with an over-supply of GPs.’
‘We hope our Lincolnshire programme will be a pilot to inform recruitment in other areas.’
A spokesperson for NHS England told Pulse that recruitment would have three phases:
- Selecting appropriately qualified candidates with a good understanding of English;
- Preparing these candidates for a working life as a GP in England, including induction on the health service and its computer systems, and help with language development relevant to medical practice;
- Putting them through the induction and refreshers scheme in England before they start and aligning them to practices that have given a firm commitment.
Lincolnshire LMC, who have been leading the initiative, told Pulse that they had to look overseas as with the limited pool of GPs in the UK current initiatives were just ‘shuffling the chairs on a sinking ship’.
Dr Kieran Sharrock, medical director of Lincolnshire LMC told Pulse: ‘We need to increase the whole number of doctors in the UK, and the only way to do that is to go outside.
‘We want to push ahead with this as soon as we can, because even if we vote out in the referendum, we’ll still be in Europe the next day. It would take primary legislation to get us out of Europe, that’s 12-18 months I would have though and in that time we can maybe get some doctors here.’
He added: ‘We’ve spoken to colleges and faculties in Spain, Poland, Romania, and the Czech Republic to try and see the interest. There’s a lot of interest from their GPs to come over here.’
Dr Sharrock said that previous attempts had faced barriers, such as language and the gap between leaving their job and starting one in the UK.
He added: ‘So we’re working on a package of transition funding from the practices, and NHS England and Health Education England look like they might fund that as well.’
There have been problems with UK-trained GPs passing the exams for the induction and refreshers scheme, with Pulse revealing how just one in 100 GPs passing the entry tests that allow them to return to work unsupervised directly, with some UK trained GPs giving up on returning.
Dr Sharrock said he hopes candidates will have an opportunity to work in a supported setting before they’re expected to go through the I&R, as they might struggle to achieve the minimum grade.
Why look abroad?
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The NHS is struggling to achieve Jeremy Hunt’s unlikely commitment to deliver 5,000 more GPs by 2020,
Health education leaders are failing to increase the number of GP trainees, with official figures showing they have filled just 70% of all training posts so far this year.
The GP Forward View therefore made explicit the need to look abroad – it commits NHS England to recruiting up to 500 GPs from overseas, as first revealed by Pulse.