GP practices across the country will be able to recruit 600 more fully qualified overseas GPs by next April – and a further 1,000 by December 2018 – as part of NHS England’s major expansion of its international GP recruitment programme.
Chief executive Simon Stevens revealed in July that the scheme would look to recruit 2,000 overseas GPs by 2020 – quadrupling the original 500 target. Now managers say 600 of these will be available within six months.
They have started writing to practices in 11 areas, inviting them to contact their CCGs to express an interest in taking on any of the new recruits.
National director for primary care Dr Arvind Madan told Pulse the aim was to ‘expand the pool of available GPs for practices to employ’, and that there were no criteria set by NHS England on which practices can participate.
The BMA’s GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey welcomed the move: ‘Plans to recruit more doctors from overseas may help to provide much-needed GPs in the short term. Overseas professionals have a strong track record of providing first-rate care to patients in the NHS over many decades.’
But he added: ‘More needs to be done by the Government to create a sustainable, long-term basis on which to remedy the huge workforce problems threatening to overwhelm GP services across the country.’
The announcement of an influx of overseas GPs comes as NHS managers struggle to meet their target of adding 5,000 extra GPs to the workforce by 2020. The latest figures show a drop in GP numbers of 350 compared with when the policy was announced in 2015.
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NHS England’s £100m scheme to recruit overseas GPs
How many overseas GPs does NHS England plan to recruit?
Around 2,000 by 2020. By April, it hopes to have brought 600 GPs to England who will be available to work in practices in the nominated areas (see chart) and 1,000 more in phase 2 in 2018.
Where will these GPs come from?
The early waves will come from countries in the European Economic Area where there is ‘an affordable supply’ of GPs, as these doctors are automatically eligible to join the GP register. However, the GMC and RCGP are also in talks about how the regulatory and examination processes could be safely streamlined to encourage return and recruitment from other countries, starting with Australia.
How will NHS England do this?
In an invitation to recruitment firms, issued late last month, NHS England set out a budget of £100m for companies that are able to recruit and relocate overseas GPs.
NHS England will set up an international recruitment office by November, which will be responsible for setting standards for recruiters as well as developing the ‘supportive package of measures’ to ensure the new GPs are helped with practical issues such as housing and education.
Dr Madan said the IRO will also ‘have an overseeing role in matching individual clinicians with practices who identify themselves as being interested in taking on an international recruit’.
And he added that NHS England is in discussion with the Government to investigate the possibility of acting as a sponsor for these GPs, with the aim of removing another layer of administration for practices.
Will it work?
A £30m international GP recruitment programme is already running in three parts of the country – Lincolnshire, Essex and Cumbria. Lincolnshire LMC, which pioneered the programme, has already attracted 26 GPs from the EU, trained in Poland. Targets have been set for Essex and Cumbria. With a major cash injection, NHS England is hoping to fast-track these local schemes and roll them out further.
What do I need to do to fill a vacancy with one of the recruits?
The first phase of the expansion will focus on 11 additional regions:
• Humber Coast and Vale
• North East
• Middleton, Heywood and Rochdale
• Mid Nottinghamshire (Mansfield and Newark)
• Cambridgeshire and Peterborough
• Norfolk and Suffolk
• Birmingham and Solihull
• Kent and Medway
• South East London
• North East London.
Commissioners have been approaching practices in those areas asking for expressions of interest. This applies to all practices in those areas and NHS England hasn’t set any specific criteria beyond the practice wanting to employ an international recruit.
I’m outside these areas – what should I do?
Initially NHS England is focusing on those 11 areas but the scheme will not be limited to them. Other CCGs and Sustainability and Transformation Partnership areas will be invited to gauge interest in recruiting to any vacancies, so it’s worth raising it early with your local team. NHS England will issue updated guidance next month detailing how other areas can be part of the programme.
Will NHS England pay for me to employ an overseas GP recruit?
While the international GP recruitment programme will play a role in matching recruits and practices, this programme is designed to increase the pool of GPs available to be recruited by practices. Practices will remain responsible for salary and employment costs.
What other support does the programme offer?
The programme will provide support for GPs joining the NHS to navigate any language or relocation barriers and help them settle successfully. NHS England is exploring whether it can be the sponsor for these GPs for visa purposes, to avoid practices having to deal with this.
This piece has been updated on 1 September 2017, and will continue to be updated. Thanks to Dr Arvind Madan, national director for primary care at NHS England, for the information in this piece