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Part-time doctors pose ‘huge risk’ to workforce planning, warns GMC chair

The prevalence of part-time doctors working in the NHS poses a ‘huge risk’ to the accuracy of workforce modelling, and could lead to over-dependence on recruiting doctors from abroad, the chair of the GMC has warned.  

Speaking at the launch of the GMC’s report The state of medical education and practice in the UK this week, GMC chair Professor Sir Peter Rubin said part-time workers created ‘high level issues’ for workforce planners.

He said there were issues ‘about planning for a majority of the workforce who will spend a period of their career working part-time, and will then come back full time.’

He added: ‘Trying to model that is really quite challenging, and a huge risk for medical workforce planning. The risks are that the numbers will be wrong.’

If planners allocate too few places at British medical schools in relation to the demand for doctors, they have to be recruited from overseas.

Professor Sir Rubin said: ‘If there are too few then we get back to the situation that we have been in for many, many years – of being dependent on doctors who have been trained overseas,’

‘Let’s be clear about it: the NHS could not have survived over these many many years without huge numbers of doctors from overseas.

‘But I think probably most people in this country would prefer a health service that is run by doctors who have been trained in the UK.’

The GMC could soon be given new powers to give language checks to all foreign-trained doctors, after the DH launched a consultation containing this proposal in April.

A study commissioned by the GMC and published in the British Medical Journal last year found that foreign-trained doctors were up to four times more likely to be suspended or struck off, than their UK-trained counterparts.