NHS to recruit 2,000 foreign GPS to fill gap
THE health service is to recruit around 2,000 GPS from countries such as New Zealand, Australia and the rest of the EU in an effort to meet its staff targets, the head of NHS England has revealed.
Simon Stevens said four times the 500 extra doctors that had been planned are needed to tackle the rise in vacancies for family doctors.
The Government has set a target of recruiting 5,000 more GPS by 2020, but is expected to miss this goal.
In an interview with the Health Service Journal (HSJ), Mr Stevens said that efforts were being stepped up to encourage GPS to come to the UK.
He said: “Although there are some good signs of progress on increases in the GP training scheme, nevertheless there are real pressures around retirements.
“And so the conclusion we’ve come to is that in order to increase the likelihood of being able to have 5,000 more doctors in general practice, we are going to need … a significantly expanded industrial scale international recruitment programme. We intend to launch that in the autumn.
“Rather than the current 500 or so GPS that are being targeted for international recruitment … it probably needs to be four times more than that.”
Asked for his view on whether the public sector pay cap should be lifted, Mr Stevens said that if the cap was lifted, extra funding for NHS staff would have to be put in place.
The move comes after new figures suggested that waiting times to see a GP are likely to soar due to a six-fold rise in vacancies for family doctors.
The findings from Pulse magazine showed 12.2 per cent of positions are currently vacant – an increase from 2.1 per cent in 2011. Almost one in five of GPS polled said they had given up trying to recruit a doctor in the last year because it had proved impossible.
Dr Richard Vautrey, acting chairman of the British Medical Association’s GP committee, said: “This announcement is yet another clear admission of failure from the Government, which is effectively conceding it cannot meet its own target of recruiting 5,000 extra GPS without an emergency draft of doctors from abroad. General practice is currently under unsustainable pressure from rising patient demand, falling resources and widespread staff shortages.
“Applying a sticking plaster by recruiting doctors from abroad can only offer a limited short-term fix, especially when there is uncertainty over freedom of movement following the UK’S exit from the EU.”
Prof Helen Stokes-lampard, chairman of the Royal College of GPS, said the college welcomed any GP from the EU or further afield “as long as they meet the rigorous standards set by the College and General Medical Council to ensure safe clinical practice”.
‘Applying a sticking plaster by recruiting doctors from abroad can only offer a limited short-term fix’