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600 overseas GPs to be recruited for English practices by April

Exclusive GP practices will be able to recruit 600 more fully qualified overseas GPs by April 2018 – and 1,000 by December – as NHS England massively expands its international GP recruitment programme.

NHS England boss Simon Stevens had revealed last month that the overseas recruitment scheme would look to recruit 2,000 overseas GPs by 2020 – rather than the 500 original target – and now managers say that 600 of these will begin to be recruited within six months.

Managers have started writing to practices in 11 areas asking them to contact their CCGs if they wish to take on any of these new GPs.

The national director for primary care Dr Arvind Madan told Pulse the aim was to significantly ’expand the pool of available GPs for practices to employ’, but there were no criteria set by NHS England on which practices should be able to participate.

And he added they are even in discussion with the Government to see if NHS England could act as a sponsor for these GPs to remove another layer of burden for practices.

A final budget is still under discussion but in an invitation to recruitment firms, published today, NHS England sets out a budget of £100m for companies who are able to recruit and relocate overseas GPs.

This would include the £30m already earmarked for the original programme, which has already been set up in Lincolnshire, Essex and Hull.

The Lincolnshire scheme was instigated by local LMC leader Dr Kieran Sharrock over a year ago in response to the local workforce crisis – before NHS England launched its scheme – and it has attracted 26 GPs to date.

Dr Madan told Pulse that the initial expansion will be focused on an additional 11 areas, including parts of the East Midlands, Yorkshire and Humber, London and across the North East.

These submitted their interest earlier this year and were reviewed against NHS England’s national priorities, but Dr Madan said ‘it is by no means limited to that’ with more areas likely to be added.

Dr Madan told Pulse: ‘Our ambitions now are for 2,000 international doctors by 2020 – that’s up from the original figure of 500. In this financial year we’re looking to recruit 600 doctors.’

He added there would be ‘a further 1,000 in phase two in 2018’ and said ‘practices are being written to now to identify whether they’re interested in those areas’.

‘They can communicate that back to commissioners if they would like to be considered’.

NHS England will set up an International Recruitment Office by November, which will be responsible for setting standards for recruiters to comply with as well as the ‘supportive package of measures to ensure they’re helped with their housing, their family’s schooling and employment, etc.’

Dr Madan added the IRO will also ‘have an overseeing role in matching individual clinicians with practices who identify themselves as being interested in taking on an international recruit’.

The early waves will focus on ‘ethically recruiting’ GPs from countries in the European Economic Area that aren’t also suffering from a GP workforce crisis, as these doctors are automatically eligible to join the GP register.

But work is underway between the RCGP and GMC to look at ‘streamlining registration processes’ for doctors from further afield beginning with Australia, Dr Madan said.

Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chair: ‘Plans to recruit more doctors from overseas may help to provide much needed GPs in the short term. These professionals have a strong track record of providing first rate care to patients in the NHS over many decades.

‘However, more needs to be done by the government to create a sustainable, long term basis on which to remedy the huge workforce problems threatening to overwhelm GP services across the country.’

The next 11 areas NHS England is targeting for international GP recruitment

  • Humber Coast and Vale
  • North East
  • Middleton, Heywood and Rochdale
  • Staffordshire
  • Mid Nottinghamshire (Mansfield and Newark)
  • Cambridgeshire and Peterborough
  • Norfolk and Suffolk
  • Birmingham and Solihull
  • Kent and Medway
  • South East London
  • North East London