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More foreign GPs are essential to hit 5,000 target, say recruiters

The Government will have to recruit more doctors from overseas if it is to meet its target of employing 5,000 extra GPs by 2020, a major UK recruitment group has warned.

ManpowerGroup Solutions – one of the five biggest recruiters of GPs in the UK – said Prime Minister David Cameron would fall short of his goal to recruit more GPs and make surgeries open seven days a week unless more non-EU doctors could be hired.

The warning comes after Government advisors ruled out putting general practice on the list of professions to be earmarked for preferential recruitment from overseas – effectively blocking the NHS from recruiting GPs from outside Europe.

The Migrant Advisory Committee said there was no shortage of medical students and that Government plans to incentivise them to become GPs would address current shortfalls in the profession – a move described as ‘disappointing’ by the RCGP.

However, ManpowerGroup Solutions UK managing director James Hick said that even if the number of medical graduates doubles, the Government will not be able to meet its target ‘unless urgent action is taken’.

Mr Hick said: ‘David Cameron has pledged to recruit 5,000 new GPs to extend surgery opening hours. That will improve care for millions, but it’s hard to see where those doctors will come from.

‘As a major recruiter of GPs, we see that there are not enough homegrown new clinicians. There’s no simple fix – even if we were to double the number of medical school graduates from British universities, it still wouldn’t solve the problem.’

ManpowerGroup Solutions made its warning after surveying employers about expected workforce demand and supply.

The company also warned that Britain leaving the EU would ‘create a vast amount of uncertainty and instability in the UK economy’, and ‘reduce the flexibility of the UK workforce, with companies less able to attract talent from abroad’.

Professor Maureen Baker, chair of the RCGP, said the Government should reconsider its position on recruitment of non-EU doctors.

Professor Baker said: ‘It was disappointing earlier this year that the Migration Advisory Committee decided not to include family doctors on their list of Shortage Occupation List, and given the severe shortage of GPs across the UK, we hope they reconsider.’

However, she added that ‘we also need to do everything we possibly can to build our home-grown GP workforce’ and that ‘we need to work with government, policymakers and medical schools to “recruit, retain and return” as many family doctors as possible’.

A Department of Health spokesperson said its plans would still rely on increased training and retention of GPs.

The spokesperson said: ‘Our plans to recruit extra GPs don’t rely on increasing foreign doctors, but on increasing training places, boosting retention, and incentivising GPs to return to their profession. The proportion of British staff working in the NHS has increased over the past five years and there are an extra 1,600 GPs since 2010.

‘To improve access to GPs, we have invested £175m in the NHS so they can pilot new ideas, including more appointments between 8am to 8pm, seven days a week and email and Skype consultations.’