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Popular petition demands relaxed GP immigration rules

A petition calling for the Government to include GPs on its shortage occupation list is swiftly gaining signatures.

The petition, launched by Lincolnshire A&E doctor and Green Party candidate Ben Loryman, has been signed by 700 people in three days.

It calls for GPs to be added to the Migration Advisory Council (MAC) list of occupations, which has relaxed visa rules because there is a UK shortage.

The petition, which has been backed by Lincolnshire LMC, said GPs should be added because ‘GP practices in rural areas struggle to recruit doctors, forcing many surgeries to close’.

It added: ‘There are many GPs from outside the EU who would like to work in the UK. However, Practices can’t offer them a job without going through the visa bureaucracy, and the NHS is losing many good doctors as a result.’

For professions on the list, employers do not need to prove a role has been unsuccessfully advertised in the UK before hiring an overseas candidate.

It comes as Pulse revealed that a Nigerian GP based in Lincolnshire was forced to give up her position because the job had been improperly advertised.

Although the MAC acknowledged GP workforce shortages in a 2015 review, it decided it would be ‘waiting’ and ‘evaluating’ the Department of Health’s efforts to boost GP recruitment in the UK.

At the time, the MAC suggested shortages could be addressed by ‘changing the incentive structure’ for junior doctors and making general practice ‘more attractive’ relative to consultant training.

However, since then it has been revealed that there are almost 450 fewer qualified GPs working in England currently compared with 2015.

And the BMA was due to renew its push for the Home Office to consider GPs for the shortage occupation list following a vote at this year’s LMCs Conference.

Even NHS England has admitted that the only way the Government’s target of 5,000 extra GPs by 2020 can be realised is via overseas recruitment.

The £100m overseas recruitment programme, which is so far mainly focused on EU GPs, could even see NHS England acting as a sponsor to non-EU GPs to facilitate immigration, Pulse has revealed.