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Another 20 GPs from EU defy Brexit to solve British recruitment woes

The next wave of GPs from the EU – under NHS England’s £20m recruitment scheme – will arrive in Essex this year.

Under the plans, 20 qualified GPs from Portugal, Spain, Romania, Czech Republic and Slovakia will be based in practices throughout the county.

It comes as many parts of Essex have struggled with severe recruitment problems for several years, and NHS England stepped in directly to try and help attract GPs as early as 2014. The same year, health education chiefs allocated a £400,000 ‘fire-fighting fund’ to try to ease recruitment struggles.

The Essex programme to recruit GPs from the EU, which has been approved for funding from NHS England’s £20m pot, will see:

  • NHS Castle Point and Rochford CCG and NHS Thurrock CCG recieve three and two GPs respectively before the end of this month;
  • NHS Basildon and Brentwood CCG, NHS Mid Essex CCG and NHS Southend CCG each bringing over two GPs between April and June 2017;
  • Between July and September, a further four GPs from the EU are expected to arrive in Essex.

Dr Brian Balmer, chief executive of Essex LMC, said the scheme had seen GPs ‘being offered to all Essex CCGs’.

Unlike in Lincolnshire – NHS England’s blueprint area for the EU recruitment scheme – the GPs will be trained for UK general practice upon their arrival in practices in Essex.

This differs from the Lincolnshire scheme, which sees the GPs prepared for life and practise in the UK via a training course in Poland, regardless of which EU nation they are from.

NHS England announced plans to recruit at least 500 GPs from abroad as part of attempts to boost GP numbers in the UK as part of the GP Forward View, published last April, and earmarked £20m towards paying for their training and relocation.

CCGs in the Humber, Coast and Vale area have also submitted proposals to NHS England to recruit GPs from overseas, Pulse has learned.

NHS Scarborough and Ryedale CCG and NHS East Riding of Yorkshire CCG are each looking to hire 12 GPs from the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Sweden.

The Humber, Coast and Vale programme is part of a second wave of recruitment and includes plans to send overseas GPs to practices in NHS Hull CCG, where they will start work from October 2017.

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, medical director of Humberside LMCs, said the Hull recruitment programme will introduce the doctors to ‘the NHS and general practice and also help them and support them through induction and refresher schemes and making sure they have had all the correct and necessary access to training’.

He added that while bids for EU GPs were open to the whole region, many came from practices in East Riding and Scarborough who had struggled to recruit GPs locally.

A spokesperson from NHS Scarborough and Ryedale CCG said: ‘We are looking to recruit GPs from overseas to help us address shortages in primary care in Scarborough and Ryedale as part of a wider proposal put forward to NHS England through the Humber, Coast and Vale sustainability and transformation plan.’

A spokesperson at NHS East Riding of Yorkshire CCG said NHS managers in the local area are working on four recruitment schemes in the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Sweden, and ‘practices will need to apply to the CCG in order to recruit one of these GPs’.

The area has suffered highly publicised recruitement woes, including five practices in the town of Bridlington forced to close their lists as a sixth closed permanently because of a shortage of GPs.

NHS Scarborogh and Ryedale CCG said the EU recruitment proposals have yet to receive NHS England approval, ‘though we are expecting a decision soon’.

Recruiting GPs from overseas

NHS England is moving ahead with its plan to recruit 500 GPs from Europe in a bid to hit the Government’s target of hiring 5,000 additional GPs by 2020.

This is despite health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s pledge at the Conservative Party Conference in October that the NHS will start relying more on ‘homegrown’ doctors.

Lincolnshire is piloting the scheme with GPs from Poland, Romania and Spain and is expected to receive its first group of 25 EU GPs in April, with another cohort set to arrive in August.

NHS England confirmed that they are looking to expand the scheme, with Lincolnshire becoming ‘a blueprint’ for similar programmes across the country.

The new recruits have been guaranteed a starting salary of £70k increasing to £90k once they are fully trained and working independently.