Exclusive The Department of Health is ‘unambiguous’ that GPs from the EU practising in the UK should be able to stay on after the UK leaves the EU.
Speaking at the Pulse Live conference in London today, David Mowat, the junior health minister responsible for general practice, described the GP workforce problems as the ‘number one’ issue facing practices at the moment.
Further, acknowledging that retention of existing GPs would be key, Mr Mowat insisted that the Government would definitely meet its target of 5,000 more GPs by 2020.
Mr Mowat said: ‘We are also planning to recruit more GPs from abroad, particularly for areas that are very short… We rely heavily on large numbers of high quality doctors from across the European Union.
‘Unambiguously, we want them to stay. There is absolutely no pressure in terms of any other direction.
‘A good piece of news in fact is that since the referendum result or the vote in June of last year, the actual pace of people coming in has increased rather than decreased and that is positive,’ he added, while also saying ‘the whole thing with Brexit will have to be managed very carefully’.
But he added regarding the Government’s 5,000 GP pledge: ‘It is a commitment and we do intend to meet it.’
Meanwhile, taking questions from the floor, Mr Mowat was put on the spot about the difficulty of persuading young GPs to take on partnership roles.
But Mr Mowat said that ‘the point I would make more widely is whether it matters to the patient whether it’s a salaried GP or a partner?’
In an exclusive interview with Pulse earlier this year, Mr Mowat said the squeeze on practice funding ‘can’t last forever’ if the Government is serious about increasing its workforce numbers.
It comes as Pulse reported last week on Mr Mowat’s suggestion that the current 7,500 GP practices could contract to just 1,500 GP super hubs to look after 35,000 to 40,000 patients each.
He also said that the two-year committment to reimbursing GPs for the rising cost of indemnity will continue.
But, notably, he also told MPs it was ‘not clear’ how extending the national indemnity scheme for hospital doctors to GPs ‘would help’.