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NHS pushes on with EU GP recruitment despite ‘homegrown’ doctor pledge

NHS England is set to push ahead with its plan to recruit hundreds of GPs from Europe, despite health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s pledge last week for the NHS to start relying on ‘homegrown’ doctors.

NHS England director of primary care Dr Arvind Madan said a scheme which is currently being piloted in Lincolnshire, first revealed by Pulse in June, is to become ‘a blueprint’ for similar schemes across the country.

His comments come as Pulse has learned that a separate scheme, run by a private recruitment firm, could begin bringing over its first of several hundred European GPs in a matter of weeks.

Speaking at the annual RCGP conference on Thursday, NHS England director of primary care Dr Arvind Madan outlined some of NHS England actions to boost GP numbers, adding that ‘one that is of particular interest is the international recruitment campaign.’

He said: ‘Previous attempts at this have not been particularly successful, but the work that we are doing with Lincolnshire, where we will hopefully develop a blueprint that can be used across the country, is interesting in as much as that it actually involves induction, in the host country, around what general practice in the UK is like, and what working in the NHS is like.

‘And also some cultural training – and I have visions of them being force fed episodes of Coronation Street and Eastenders. Help and support once they come to the UK with the practical things, so housing, jobs for their spouses, schooling, to help them stick, and join those communities.’

Pulse revealed in June that Lincolnshire LMC had been working with European medical recruiters to attract GPs to work in the county, and the GP Forward View outlined NHS England’s plan to attract 500 GPs of its 5,000 GP target from overseas.

Earlier last week, Mr Hunt announced a 25% increase in training places at UK medical schools and a mandatory four years of NHS service upon qualification, so that the NHS could become less reliant on foreign doctors and, eventually, ‘self-sufficient’.

The North East has been one of the areas that has had most difficulty filling its places on GP training schemes and Lincolnshire LMC medical director Dr Kieran Sharrock told Pulse the Government’s plan to be self-sufficient in doctors was a long way off.

He said: ‘Jeremy Hunt is talking about making the NHS self-sufficient in doctors in ten years’ time, but for the next ten years we will still need to recruit doctors, nurses, other allied health professionals from all over the world.’

The recruitment firm which Lincolnshire LMC, NHS England and Health Education England works with has identified 20 candidates who could be suitable for the pilot, and these will undergo early assessments before being interviewed within the next two months, he added.

Initial training will take place at a campus in mainland Europe, with the GPs coming to the UK for an intensive week of completing GMC registrations, occupational health assessments and other processes.

Dr Sharrock told Pulse: ‘We’re looking to have them in the country in March-April, then they’ll have a six to 12 month supported training programme, followed by two years of support and mentoring.

He added they would be likely to begin going through the NHS Induction and Refresher assessments ‘towards the end of their first year’ on the scheme.

Meanwhile, a separate scheme previously revealed by Pulse involving recruitment consultancy Primary Care People (PCP) is set to bring over its first 15 European GPs ‘in the next weeks’.

PCP, which has had talks with NHS England about ‘pipeline’ of 600 European GPs to join the NHS, ar offering an £80,000 training and support package to these doctors, who are coming from Portugal, Spain, Hungary and Romania.

They will be training full-time in London for the Induction and Refresher scheme, with their housing and living costs supported, and in the hope they will settle in the UK, will receive ongoing support and training.

Under the firm’s plans, these GPs will be employed by PCP, and be contracted with practices as ‘interim GPs’ on £500 a day, four days a week for 12 months contracts.

Managing Director Tawhid Juneja told Pulse that while Jeremy Hunt was suggesting tying people to working in the NHS for four years, the firm’s strategy was to ‘make it an attractive option where GPs don’t want to leave us, rather than tying them in’.