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NHS England advert urges British GPs to come home from Australia

Exclusive British GPs working in Australia have been targeted by an advertisement placed in two medical magazines urging them to return home and practise in the UK, Pulse can reveal.

Managers told Pulse that they expect several GPs to return to practise in the UK as a ‘direct result ‘of the advertisement that was placed in Australian Doctor and the Medical Observer.

The advert promises a ‘fully-funded induction and returner scheme’ if GPs return to the UK and also emphasises that practices taking part in the scheme are ‘looking to recruit permanent GPs’.

Pulse has learnt that the advert by NHS England’s Shropshire and Staffordshire area team and Health Education Midlands was one of the most popular to have ever run on the Australian doctor website. It ran in both publications last November and December.

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But GP leaders have said that placing advertisements abroad will not be enough to solve the GP workforce crisis.

Dr Ken Deacon, medical director of the North Midlands at NHS England said the advert was to address the ‘national shortage’ of qualified GPs due to new recruits being outnumbered by retirements.

He said: ‘In order to address this situation we have placed advertisements, both locally and nationally, aimed at UK trained doctors working overseas (including in Australia), who wish to return to NHS practice, but have not been able to do so because of difficulties in finding places on approved returners schemes.

‘We have had a number of applications as a result of the advert and expect several doctors to relocate back to the UK, and re-join NHS General Practice as a direct result. At around the same time we also advertised for UK based doctors wishing to return to practise; a number of these doctors have already accepted posts, and will be starting work in the near future.’

According to Paul Smith, deputy editor of Australian Doctor, said the advert proved popular. He said: ‘In terms of click-throughs it was the most popular advert on our website we have run. It may have been linked to the threats from the federal government to cut Medicare funding for GP services in the budget last year – [it] caused a lot of unhappiness.’

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But Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, chair of the GPC’s Education, Training and Workforce subcommittee, said: ‘We fully support a completely-funded returner or refresher scheme for GPs abroad to come back. But they’re only going to come back if we sort out what’s actually happening here first, not merely placing adverts in overseas journal. Just asking them to come back isn’t necessarily going to solve the workforce crisis we’ve got.’

NHS England recently published a £10m strategy to tempt medical graduates to become GPs and experienced GPs to delay retirement. The ideas included a new national scheme for returners, and cash inducements if they also agree to work in an under-doctored area.

A spokesperson for NHS England said that the central team had not previously been aware of the advertisement, but described it as a ‘positive scheme’. He said: ‘While it’s not a strategy that we’ve been specifically advocating centrally, it certainly looks like a positive scheme.

‘Easier returning to practice is point nine of the 10 point New Deal for General Practice we published at the back end of last month, and work is currently underway between ourselves, HEE, the RCGP and GPC on a new induction and returner scheme, which will reflect the needs of those returning from practising overseas or career breaks.’

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