Exclusive NHS England has reached out to GP practices in an ‘urgent’ bid to find sponsors for 400 international GPs due to complete their training this month.
It had hoped to be able to act as a ‘proxy sponsor’ itself to secure the visas for the newly-qualified GPs but an email seen by Pulse said NHS England was ‘unlikely’ to be able to do so.
According to the email, there are more than 400 non-EEA students in the GP training system due to qualify at the end of July.
And, unless these are matched with GP practices that hold sponsorship licenses, they face having to leave England when their visas expire.
The alert, sent by Surrey Health Education Network to Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust said: ‘As you may be aware, NHS England is in discussions with the Home Office about acting as a proxy sponsor of visas for GPs from non-EEA countries.
‘Due to the complexity of these discussions, NHS England is unlikely to be able to offer visa sponsorship to the 400+ non-EEA nationals who are due to complete their GP training at the end of the month.
‘Therefore they are hoping to urgently identify any practices that currently hold a sponsorship licence so that they can be matched up with any newly qualified non-EEA GPs that wish to remain in England.’
The news comes as the Home Office recently announced that it will remove the cap on the number of international doctors and nurses who can be granted a ‘tier 2’ visa to work in the UK following intense lobbying from the medical profession.
BMA GP Committee workforce lead Dr Krishna Kasaraneni said: ‘At a time when we need to do all we can to recruit more GPs, it’s bizarre the Government’s own policies are hampering this.
‘NHS England and the Home Office must sort this issue as quickly as possible or more practices will struggle to maintain their services to their patients.’
Earlier this year, official figures showed the number of full-time equivalent GPs in the workforce has decreased by more than 1,000 since September 2015 – when then-health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced he would increase the number in England by 5,000 by 2020.
NHS England has since increased its ambitious overseas recruitment programme to 2,000, but in May Pulse revealed that just 85 GPs have taken up a post nearly two years after the programme’s launch.
NHS England and the Home Office declined to comment.