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RCGP chair urges Home Office to add GPs to shortage occupation list

The chair of the RCGP has urged the Home Office to add GPs to the shortage occupation list, making it easier for doctors from overseas to work in general practice in the UK.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the RCGP, wrote to the home secretary Amber Rudd highlighting how the visa processes for GPs from abroad are contributing to a workforce shortage in general practice.

She made the case that recent NHS England plans to expand the international GP recruitment drive to 2,000 doctors will likely cause ‘even more pressure on the visa application system and potentially even longer processing times’.

Professor Stokes-Lampard wrote: ‘It takes at least 10 years to train a GP from the UK (from entering medical school); recruitment strategies will not solve the urgent gaps in our workforce in the short-term, and is unlikely meet longer term needs.

‘With a high number of GPs set to retire in the next few years, the future of general practice is a serious concern. 

‘We need to do everything possible to make the process for GPs entering the UK workforce as simple and straight forward as possible.’ 

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Professor Stokes-Lampard added that ‘the need for urgent action on this matter continues to grow’. 

She said: ‘The public’s healthcare needs have continued to grow over the last few years, but recruitment of the general practice workforce has not been sufficient to meet demand.’

She added that reported vacancy rates are ‘probably worse than official estimates’ as vacant posts are filled by locums or not advertised.

A Pulse survey of 860 GPs revealed that 12.2% of all GP positions are currently vacant.

Professions currently on the shortage occupation list include classically trained ballet dancers, animators, and orchestra musicians, as well as radiographers, old age psychiatrists, paramedics and nurses.

At the LMCs conference in May delegates voted in favour of the GPC renewing its push for the Home Office to consider GPs for the shortage occupation list.