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NHS increasingly reliant on international recruitment as number of GPs who trained overseas rises 8% in four years



Exclusive The number of internationally-trained GPs on the GMC register is continuing to rise at a faster rate than the number of UK-trained GPs, new figures obtained by Pulse reveal.

The statistics, released after a Freedom of Information Act request by Pulse, show that the number of GPs on the GMC register who trained overseas has increased by 8.2% over the past four years, hitting a high of 14,644 GPs in February 2014.

In comparison, the number of UK-trained GPs on the register increased by 6.4% over the same period, from 46,204 to 49,150.

The Department of Health told Pulse it is looking to reduce the demand for overseas recruitment by training more UK GPs.

The figures come after Pulse revealed that fewer trainees are expressing an interest in a career in general practice, meaning the Government’s target of ensuring 50% of medical trainees study to be a GP by 2015 is looking increasingly unlikely.

The UK is in the midst of a GP recruitment crisis, most starkly demonstrated by one GP in Essex serving more than 8,000 patients, while the RCGP estimates that an additional 10,000 GPs need to be recruited and trained.

The data released under the Freedom of Information Act shows some 14,644 overseas GPs were registered with the GMC as of February 2014, compared with 14,174 at the end of 2012, 13,875 in 2011 and 13,534 in 2010.

India and Pakistan have contributed the most GPs to the UK, with 5,200 and 1,436 GPs on the GMC register qualifying in those countries respectively.

Dr Chandra Kanneganti, who is a GP and clinical director on Stoke-on-Trent, as well as a member of the GPC and the British International Doctors’ Association (BIDA), said the growth in the number of international graduates was vital to boost workforce numbers.

He said: ‘More UK graduates are moving to find a better work-life balance. There were 18 locally trained GPs in my area that have just disappeared. There are eight adverts locally for GP partnerships and six of these practices have yet to receive one applicant. How can you find staff if it isn’t from overseas?’

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey warned that general practice would need to be propped up by overseas GPs: ‘For the foreseeable future we will need international medical graduates… who have the necessary skills and language ability to work with us’.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health told Pulse: ‘We are focusing on increasing the UK-qualified GP workforce, which will reduce demand for overseas workers.’

Top five nations where GPs who practise in the UK gained their primary vocational qualification since 2009

1.   India 5,200

2.   Pakistan 1,436

3.   Ireland 1,048

4.   Germany 837

5.   Nigeria 781

Source: GMC figures obtained through an FOI request by Pulse