This site is intended for health professionals only

NHS England widens £20m scheme to recruit GPs from EU despite Brexit

Exclusive GP practices in Hull have been asked to submit interest in taking on GP recruits from the EU, as NHS England rolls out the second wave of its £20m scheme to help ease the GP recruitment crisis.

Practices have until 20 January to express interest in employing EU recruits from Sweden, Poland, Spain and Holland, that would join practices from October.

The GPs, who are all fully qualified in their country of origin, are expected to arrive in England in July and spend the first three months of their training in an acute hospital. They will then join the GP practice, spending six months at registrar level at a £46,000 annual salary rate, reimbursed by NHS England.

This will be followed by one year on a ‘substantive employment’ rate of £68,000, to be covered by the GP practice itself.

This comes as Pulse reported that the first wave of the scheme, being rolled out with 25 EU GPs moving to live and work in Lincolnshire, will guarantee recruits a £90,000-a-year salary once they are up to speed and working independently, but the final salary level has not been outlined for the Hull scheme.

The letter to practices, sent out by NHS Hull CCG, said: ‘CCGs wishing to participate need to confirm their intention with NHS England by end January 2017.

‘It is anticipated that the process will commence April 2017 with the first applicants arriving in hospital posts in July 2017 and in practice in October 2017.

It added that ‘all costs other than employment costs and indemnity will be met through the scheme’, including ‘nine months of accommodation and elements of clinical and pastoral support’.

A CCG spokesperson clarified that the ‘the costs associated with the six-month registrar element will be reimbursed to practices who employ [an international recruit as a] GP registrar’.

Reimbursement for the training period would be in line with the procedure for taking on UK-trained GP registrars, who are regarded as supernumerary for workforce purposes.

NHS England, which committed to recruiting 500 GPs from overseas in the GP Forward View, has earmarked £20m towards paying for training and relocation for the doctors but devolved the development schemes to local leaders.

Local GP leaders said practices would welcome new members of the workforce but called for more clarity on how reimbursement would work in practice.

GPC workforce lead and Humberside LMCs medical director Dr Krishna Kasaraneni told Pulse: ‘Most of our patch has huge shortages of GPs, so if we say we want NHS England and CCGs to look at schemes to bring in GPs from outside of the region – whether from the rest of the UK or Europe – practices will be up for that and will work to make it happen.’

He added that it remained to be seen how attractive the offer would be to GPs from the continent, saying: ‘With Brexit hanging over everything, how many European GPs will want to come and work in England?’

It comes amid warnings from international recruitment agents last year that GPs from EU were already ‘rethinking’ planned moves to the UK because of Brexit and as the Government confirmed yesterday that Britain will be leaving the EU single market.

An NHS England spokesperson said the other regions which were to be prioritised for relocating overseas GPs would be confirmed in the coming weeks.

How the Government is tempting overseas GPs

As first revealed by Pulse, the GP Forward View committed NHS England to recruiting up to 500 GPs from overseas in a bid to help achieve the Government’s pledge to deliver 5,000 more GPs by 2020.

Lincolnshire LMC has spearheaded the drive to hire overseas GPs with its scheme targeting GPs from EU countries such as Poland, Romania and Spain – designed partly to get ahead of any changes in legislation on employing EU workers that might arise from Brexit.

The UK’s subsequent decision to leave the EU cast some doubt over NHS England’s plans with recruiters warning that the referendum result could put off potential applicants

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.

However, NHS England has since confirmed that it is looking to expand on the Lincolnshire scheme and push on with the plans in the immediate term.