Doctors and other healthcare professionals from the EU can continue to join the NHS workforce for the next five years without taking additional tests, following a recent Government review.
The law enabling this, named ‘standstill provisions’, came into effect on the day the UK left the European Union, and the health secretary was required to review them from January 2023 and decide a way forward.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) concluded that the provisions will remain in place ‘for a temporary period of five years’, meaning EU qualified healthcare professionals can continue to register with their regulator without further assessment.
There is an annual average of more than 4,000 EU doctors, nurses, midwives, pharmacists, dentists and other healthcare professionals joining the NHS, according to the DHSC.
The department’s data analysis also showed that while the number of applications from EU professionals was generally lower over the last two years than in 2019, the number has been increasing since 2021, and the doctor and nursing regulators received the most across each year.
A consultation, which included the GMC, found that a majority of stakeholders wanted the standstill provisions to remain ‘in the short-term’ in order to ‘avoid operational issues’ if they ended this year.
The DHSC said retaining the provisions ‘will support the department’s ambition to attract and recruit overseas healthcare professionals, without introducing complex and burdensome registration routes’.
EU doctors and other healthcare professionals may only need to take language skills tests and checks on fitness to practise, where necessary, in order to register with their relevant regulator and work in the NHS.
The Government long-term workforce plan has set out a goal to reduce reliance on overseas recruitment. As part of this aim, it will increase GP training places in England by 50% to 6,000 by 2031.
While the plan recognises ‘the skills and dedication of staff who have come here from around the world’, it sets out plans to increase the number of home-grown staff with a doubling of medical school places to 15,000 by 2031.
Earlier this year, the Government announced that international medical graduates (IMGs) will be granted a four-month visa extension after completing GP specialty training from autumn 2023.