NHS plans to recruit more GPs from Europe will have to overcome even more ‘hurdles’ since the referendum decision to leave the EU, recruitment leaders have said.
Tawhid Juneja, managing director of consultancy Primary Care People (PCP) told Pulse that GPs might now consider other EU nations, like the Republic of Ireland, where there was less uncertainty.
Pulse revealed last week that NHS England was in talks with PCP about bringing to England more than 600 GPs over the next three years, who they have been supporting with training.
Mr Juneja, who is meeting NHS England bosses next week, said there are concerns that current uncertainty over freedom of movement and financial penalty of a weaker pound could hit European GPs’ decision making.
He told Pulse: ‘Yes it makes our job tougher, but it doesn’t mean we don’t progress with this because there’s a genuine shortage.
‘There was certainly a big benefit to being in the EU. There will be more hoops we’ll have to jump through, and there will be more hurdles for candidates to get motivated.
‘Now one of the hurdles we’ll have to overcome is the uncertainty, because no one likes uncertainty and the second thing is the exchange rate – that’s going to be a real concern for these GPs as well.’
He added that this is on top of the barriers from ‘stringent testing’ in clinical and professional skills, and particularly language levels where the NHS is more demanding than any other EU nation – followed by Germany, in second place.
While they were focussed on a national scheme to get GPs to UK areas where they’re needed most, as a company they were considering neighbouring countries.
He told Pulse: ‘We as an organisation look at alternatives. Ireland is certainly an alternative for GPs, with less language restrictions.
‘The reality is we have this pool of GPs, their motivation tends to be financial, the UK is a good option for them but it’s very restrictive compared with other countries in Europe.’
PCP has said they hope to strike a deal with NHS England for a national scheme, but they have been in talks with GP leaders in Lincolnshire after Pulse revealed the LMC was spearheading an initative to train GPs in Europe and bring them to the Midlands to address their particularly acute workforce concerns.
Dr Kieran Sharrock, medical director of Lincolnshire LMC, told Pulse ahead of the referendum that they intended to ‘push ahead’ with the plan despite the possibility of an out vote because leaving the EU will still be years away and he hoped that ’in that time we can maybe get some doctors here.’
Lincolshire is home to the town of Boston, where 75.6% of voters voted to leave the EU, the highest rates of any borough in the country.
NHS auditioning for GPs on international stage
The GP Forward View commits NHS England to ‘a major international recruitment drive’ and says at least 500 GPs will be brought to the NHS from overseas in the next five years – something originally revealed by Pulse.
The NHS has been ramping up overseas recruitment as a way to boost GP numbers, with Jeremy Hunt’s pledge to recruit 5,000 more GPs by 2020 still a long way off.
Dwindling workforce is a major problem to general practice, with increasingly stretched GP services unable to attract junior doctors to fill training places.