Exclusive Health education bosses are considering bringing trained GPs over from India in a bid to alleviate the training crisis, Pulse understands.
Health Education England have signed a ‘memorandum of understanding’ with Apollo Hospitals in India, a major hospital chain, which will involve the ‘mutual exchange of clinical staff’.
Pulse understands that this will involve the transfer of GPs to England, potentially up to 400, but HEE said that the details of the MOU ‘are still under discussion’.
Apollo Hospitals currently offers a diploma in family medicine, which is accredited by the RCGP.
It comes after Pulse revealed that the Government is behind on its pledge to increase the GP workforce by 5,000 by 2020.
But international leaders warn that moves to bring in GPs trained overseas could endanger patient safety and the clinicians’ safety.
Dr Ramesh Mehta, president of the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, told Pulse that his contacts in India have said HEE wants ‘as many GPs as possible’.
He said: ‘I think it is a pity that HEE have to go abroad to recruit for GP positions. Unfortunately, the training of GPs has not been managed properly over the years.’
He added that a lot of UK-trained doctors are leaving the country ‘because of the DH policies and we are looking for doctors from abroad – it doesn’t make sense’.
Dr Mehta also highlighted the number of international medical graduates who are failing the clinical skills assessment component of the MRCGP.
He said: ‘It is unfortunate that a lot of the doctors who are trained and work in the UK, because they cannot pass the CSA component of the exam, are lost to the country. These are doctors who know the system.’
Any GPs who come over from India would have to be ‘given proper support and mentoring so they don’t land in trouble, as has happened in the past when doctors are put in the NHS without proper induction’, he added.
Dr Umesh Prabhu, former chair and current member of the British International Doctors Association executive committee and a consultant paediatrician in Wigan, said he understood that Apollo and HEE were working together to bring GPs to England.
But he said: ‘This is a most dangerous thing, because these doctors are not trained to be GPs in the UK and my biggest worry is around vulnerable patients, such as child abuse. Their training is entirely different. I have concerns for the doctors’ safety and the patients’ safety.’
The GPC has said that this scheme is an ‘admission of failure’ from the Government.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, GPC chair, said: ’Doctors from overseas have always provided a valuable contribution to this country’s health system, especially as they undergo a rigorous assessment process to ensure they have the right skills for the NHS. However, it is clearly an admission of failure that the government seems to have launched a new recruitment scheme overseas to plug what is clearly a widening gap in the number of homegrown GPs in our workforce.
’The government’s pledge to recruit 5,000 extra GPs by 2020 is clearly collapsing into chaos. Ministers need to stop the short term fixes and launch an urgent support package for general practice that addresses the huge pressures on GP services including staff shortages, underfunding and a service unable to cope with rising patient demand.’
A HEE statement said: ‘England and India have signed a Memorandum of Understanding as a starting point to exploring how both countries can benefit from the mutual exchange of ideas.
‘The details of the MoU are still in discussion once we have further confirmed information we will share with you.’
Apollo Hospitals said the memorandum would involve an exchange of clinical staff.
It said: ‘We have signed this Memorandum of Understanding as a starting point to exploring how both countries can benefit from the mutual exchange of ideas and clinical staff in improving the education and training of healthcare staff and therefore the quality of care provided to patients.
‘These are initial discussions but we look forward to announcing the outcomes of this work over the coming months and years as it progresses.’
Government struggling to meet recruitment targets
Jeremy Hunt – online
The Government will fail to attract even half of the 5,000 extra GPs promised by health secretary Jeremy Hunt by 2020, a Pulse analysis has revealed.
- 11,800 GPs trained by Health Education England by 2020, following disappointing recruitment over the past four years and a drop in applications for training this year;
- 1,000 UK-trained GPs registering an interest in returning from overseas based on figures received by Pulse from Health Education England.
But this is balanced out by:
- 3,500 GPs applying for certificates to work abroad, based on figures from the GMC showing 700 GPs in England are applying every year;
- 7,200 retiring over five years, based on figures obtained by Pulse from the NHS Business Authority that show around 1,400 GPs in England retired in 2014.