Exclusive NHS England is conducting meetings with recruiters who say they have a scheme to train and offer pastoral care to as many as 600 GPs from Europe to work in the NHS and support their relocation in the next three years.
The director of commissioning and Health Education England leaders will meet Primary Care People (PCP) at the start of July to hear proposals for a national scheme, which the recruitment firm said could lead to overseas GPs being directed to the areas of most need.
PCP managing director Tawhid Juneja told Pulse the company can boost retention rates of overseas GPs coming to England by working with NHS England on relocation and support, rather than working with separate local area teams.
NHS England confirmed it was meeting to discuss the PCP proposals, but said it was too early to comment on their intentions.
It comes as Pulse revealed that GPs in Lincolnshire had been looking into similar solutions, recruiting from Spain, Poland and Romania as the only way to address their significant workforce issues, while NHS England’s GP Forward View said it will attempt to attract 500 overseas GPs to England.
NHS England director of commissioning Rosamund Roughton and Professor Simon Gregory, director and dean of education and quality at Health Education England will meet with Mr Juneja, who says his company has been working with interested GPs in Europe for 18 months.
Mr Juneja said PCP has been training these GPs to prepare for the NHS’s professional qualifications and cultural differences, and around 100 of these GPs were far enough into their training that they could come to England in the next year
He said: ‘We have got this pipeline, we’ve already got 600 GPs who could be ready in the next three years. I can only guarantee that I can bring in 100 in the next 12 months, so it makes sense to do it on a national basis and potentially look at the areas that need the most support, instead of one area benefitting from it.
‘[We could then bring] 200 in year two and 300 in year three. We’re running it as a campaign. We’re not going to go to a country and start stealing all their GPs, that’s not ethical.’
He said the company wanted to take on all the pastoral support responsibilities while HEE and NHS England assured clinical skills and access to the performers list.
Mr Juneja said cultural practices could vary much more than clinical standards, and were significant in ensuring doctors were confident in their work.
He told Pulse: ‘A GP in Hungary will never be questioned on anything whatsoever, but in the UK you have prescribing nurse practitioners, or practice nurses stronger on chronic illness even than some GPs.
‘They may well question a GP on this. So if the GP is not prepared for this, and it’s something that happens every single day, then your GP might not be making clinical decisions in the same way and they might not feel as comfortable.’
NHS England looking abroad for GPs
The GP Forward View commits NHS England to ‘a major international recruitment drive’ and says at least 500 GPs will be brought to the NHS from overseas in the next five years – something originally revealed by Pulse.
The NHS has been ramping up overseas recruitment as a way to boost GP numbers, with Jeremy Hunt’s pledge to recruit 5,000 more GPs by 2020 still a long way off.
Dwindling workforce is a major problem to general practice, with increasingly stretched GP services unable to attract junior doctors to fill training places, and a recently relaunched returner’s scheme already undergoing an overhaul.