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Government’s plan to recruit GPs from abroad is simply daft

At the BMA’s annual representatives meeting last year, Dr Mark Porter, Chair of Council said ’We were told immigrants are filling up our GP surgeries and our hospitals. Well, they are. They’re called doctors, and nurses, and porters, and cleaners, and clinical scientists. And without them, the NHS would be on its knees.’ 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.

Ministers need to stop the short term fixes and launch an urgent support package for general practice

But the Government’s plan to now actively recruit doctors from overseas after the most significant period of under-investment in the NHS is laughable. So, the plan is to drive doctors abroad by a combination of contract imposition, ridiculous targets, unnecessary reorganisation of the health service, lies about a seven-day NHS and many more ridiculous ideas (or more, please visit the DH website) and then replace them with doctors from abroad? Seriously?

How about not doing the above? Or even better, undoing the damage done by the above? No, that would be a political turn around. One we know from the late Mrs Thatcher that politicians aren’t very good at doing.

The health service needs funding, resources and most importantly, the workforce to deliver high standards of health care to the public. The demands on the health service are increasing exponentially and the healthcare needs for the most vulnerable in the society are becoming more complex. The workforce is facing unprecedented levels of burnout. We are not facing a perfect storm, we are now in it. And this is the best the Government can come up with as a solution.

The Government’s pledge to recruit 5,000 extra GPs (which they conveniently changed to 5,000 extra doctors in GP later on) 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 from staff shortages, underfunding and a service unable to cope with rising patient demand. Next time they come up with a clever idea, they need to realise that their clever ideas are most often simply daft.

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni is chair of the GPC education, training and workforce subcommittee