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GPs trained abroad work longest hours and in poorest areas

A fifth of GPs have been trained abroad, with most working the longest hours and in the poorest conditions, new research suggests. 

A study, published in the BMC Medicine, found that 21% of GPs trained abroad with most working longer hours, seeing more patients in deprived communities, but earning less than their UK-qualified counterparts.

Furthermore, the study also found that despite achieving similar patient outcomes to UK-trained GPs, foreign doctors are more likely to fail postgraduate exams and be disciplined by their employers.

This comes as NHS England launched a £100m international GP recruitment scheme in August and has admitted that up to two thirds of the extra 5,000 GPs promised by 2020 could come from overseas.

The lead researchers have warned against ‘marginalising’ foreign trained doctors who instead ‘should be seen as part of the solution to the GP recruitment crisis’.

Dr Evan Kontopantelis, senior author on the study, said: ‘Health services are under threat due to hardening public attitudes to immigration which have been enabled by Brexit.

‘This may be a big blow to an already in crisis English primary care service and needs to be addressed urgently.’

He added that foreign trained doctors ‘play a critical role in the delivery of NHS GP services, working in the most deprived areas but providing high quality care’ and therefore ‘need proper professional support’. 

Professor Aneez Esmail, a professor of general practice at the University of Manchester, said foreign GPs ‘need more time and support to prepare for exams and the delivery of UK primary care services’.

But he said: ‘Unfortunately, GP training time is restricted by the GMC and the RCGP meaning non-UK qualified doctors face an uphill struggle from the outset.

‘Rather than tightening immigration policy the Department of Health should do more to support and harness international talent in alleviating the growing GP crisis.’

Professor Esmail has previously spoken out MRCGP exam, which he said ‘structurally discriminates’ against black and minority ethnic doctors.