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British GP unable to work in NHS as GMC says laws are ‘not fit for purpose’

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Exclusive A British GP who trained and practised for 20 years in Australia has been prevented from working in the NHS under legislation the GMC has called ‘not fit for purpose’. 

The GMC will not automatically recognise the qualifications of GP Dr Benjamin Tarsh in the way it would if he had trained within the European Economic Area (EEA) – despite Dr Tarsh having been a GP tutor and examiner of fellowship candidates at the Australian equivalent of the RCGP. 

Instead GPs from outside the EEA are legally required to provide the GMC with evidence that their qualifications are ‘equivalent’ to those of GPs who trained in the UK, which is then assessed by the RCGP.

Dr Tarsh said the rules meant he had effectively been ‘barred’ from working in the NHS because since November 2018 he has been unable to get hold of key documents from a GP practice he used to work at back in Australia, which is not legally obliged to provide them.

The GMC admitted to Pulse that the current legislation was not ‘fit for purpose’ and it was doing ‘everything we can’ to support the growth of the GP workforce in the UK.

Dr Tarsh said he had encountered ‘unnecessarily excessive bureaucracy’ while planning his return to the UK, and has urged regulatory bodies to rethink their rules.

The rules stopping Dr Tarsh from working in the NHS come at a time of an ongoing GP shortagethe RCGP’s calls for 5,000 more GPs to meet workforce targets, and the BMA predicting the worst winter in NHS history

Una Lane, director of registration and revalidation at the GMC, said: ‘The current legislation is not fit for purpose and makes it very challenging for GPs who qualified outside the EEA to register as GPs here.

‘We are doing everything we can to support the growth of our GP workforce and we have worked closely with the RCGP to streamline and simplify the process for GPs qualified in Australia, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand.’

She added: ‘We are pleased that the Department of Health and Social Care has committed to changing legislation in this area and we look forward to working with them in developing a system that will benefits GP from overseas who wish to work here while maintaining the standards that all patients have a right to expect from their doctors.’

Dr Tarsh recently completed an MA in medical ethics and law at King’s College London, which focused on NHS commissioning and resource allocation. He said he hopes the reforms will bring about improvements for the sake of both NHS patients and ‘overwhelmed staff’.

He told Pulse: ‘If the Government truly wants to recruit highly-qualified Australian-trained GPs to the NHS, they urgently need to fix the current insurmountable legal obstacles.

‘In my view, they should accept the RCGP’s recognition that GPs trained under appropriately-approved Royal Australian College of GP’s curriculums have received equivalent training.

‘For added confidence and to ensure applicants have an appropriate medical regulatory record, these doctors could provide certificates of “good standing” from the Australian Health Professionals Regulation Agency and a duly-certified copy of their qualifications to the GMC as the sole requirements for equivalence registration.’

The GMC recently announced that from 2023 it will introduce a new skills test for overseas medical students wanting to practise in the UK, which it expects will boost recruitment.