Around 120 overseas doctors have been recruited through the NHS England’s international GP recruitment programme, 50 more than in February, but some way short of its target of 2,000.
NHSE has stated it will ‘re-examine its previous assumptions and plans’ on GP training numbers and international medical graduates coming to the UK to train as GPs, according to its latest board meeting with NHS Improvement.
The documents said over 70 of the 120 GPs are in the country ‘either seeing patients or in observer placements in practices.’ In February, NHSE confirmed more than 70 doctors have been recruited so far, and of these, 50 were in the country.
The international recruitment programme initially aimed to recruit 500 foreign doctors by 2020 when was set up in April 2016. A year later, NHSE increased its goal to say it anticipated between 2,000 and 3,000 GPs ‘may be recruited’ from overseas.
The documents also stated that the forthcoming final ‘People Plan and expansion of multi-disciplinary teams in networks, ‘may not prove sufficient’ to improve GP numbers.
Therefore, NHSE has said it will additionally consider re-examining its ‘previous assumptions and plans on future training numbers and clinicians from abroad, given the scale of the gap’.
The documents also mention NHS England is working with the RCGP and the GMC to aid with international medical graduates from outside the EEA area.
It says: ‘We are working with colleagues in the Royal College of GPs and the General Medical Council to explore potential routes into general practice for non-EEA doctors, although regulatory restrictions prevent recruitment from most non-EEA countries.’
The GMC has said this refers to their efforts to streamline the process for adding international medical graduates to the UK register.
A GMC spokesperson said: ‘The programme has initially focused on targeting doctors from the European Economic Area (EEA), as their training is recognised in the UK under EU law, we have been working with the RCGP to review and streamline the application process for GPs from other countries where the curriculum and training standards are similar to ours, starting with Australia.’
They added the process of checking and evaluating evidence from international applicants has now been halved.
They said: ‘The application process for internationally qualified GPs applying to join the GP register normally takes around a year. We have managed to streamline our part in this process following research that was carried out by the University of Exeter to map the training, curricula, assessments and healthcare contexts of England with Australia.’
But Walsall LMC medical secretary Dr Uzma Ahmad said the numbers are quite ‘disappointing’ and ‘slow’ and that NHSE should draw its attention to GP retention in the UK.
She said: ‘The uptake has not been that great really. We think that GPs should be jumping to work here so the fact that it has gone so slowly is really disappointing. I don’t think that’s a good number, nor is it a good feat to get to what we need.
‘They need to work the state of general practice for the current GPs who are working here, the real hardcore GPs, what are they doing to retain them? That is not what they’re working on enough. Very little has been done for the working GPs here. These are heard abroad as well and devalues the current state of general practice, that it is not that appealing for the doctors who want to come and work in the UK as GPs.
‘If they do not concentrate on making the life of a current working GP better, I don’t see that it will attract any GPs either from medical schools or either from abroad if they hear stories like that.‘
RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said the Government needs to act upon the recent recommendation to put GPs on the shortage occupation list to help facilitate international GP recruitment.
She said: ‘The NHS long term plan has aspirations that will be great for patient care, but if these are to be realised we need a substantially expanded workforce to deliver it – and the international recruitment scheme is one important element of building the GP workforce, so it’s good to see more doctors coming through this route.
‘To help facilitate this further, the Government needs to act on the Migration Advisory Committee’s recent recommendation and put doctors on the Shortage Occupation List.
‘Ultimately, we need the next iteration of the NHS People Plan to include more detail of comprehensive initiatives to further boost GP recruitment – we already have more GPs in training than ever before – and introduce meaningful initiatives to retain our existing workforce, so that we can deliver the care our patients need and deserve.’
Last month, recruitment agencies approved by NHS Employers to recruit international GPs said that Brexit was the ‘one thing’ slowing down international recruitment because of uncertainty.
In February, Pulse learned that CCGs had been forced to cut its ‘overly ambitious’ international recruitment targets.