NHS England expands international recruitment of GPs

NHS England has announced a major increase to the GP workforce through the introduction of an international recruitment programme, following a series of successful regional pilots.

 NHS England plans to recruit approximately 600 overseas doctors into general practice over the next year, increasing to at least 2000 within three years; this represents four times their initial target. The expanded international recruitment programme has been set up to help deliver the commitment set out in the General Practice Forward View, which pledged 5000 more doctors working in general practice in England by 2020.

To support the programme, NHS England has established a GP International Recruitment Office, which will co-ordinate the employment, relocation and support of oversees doctors. NHS England is also encouraging recruitment firms to join a framework to support the programme, and has published a call for tender in the Official Journal of the European Union.

The recruitment programme will initially target doctors within the European Economic Area, because their training is recognised in the UK under European law and they already receive automatic recognition to join the GMC’s GP Register. However, the RCGP and the GMP are also reviewing the curriculum, training and assessment of GPs trained outside Europe, beginning with Australia, to streamline GP registration for doctors whose training is seen as equivalent to the UK GP training programme.

Medical schools in England are also planning to increase their intake by 25% over the next few years, but it will be many years before this expansion will have an impact on doctors entering general practice and will not help meet the 2020 target. In the meantime, the increased international recruitment will help fill the gap, says NHS England.

NHS England stresses that in recruiting doctors from overseas, patient safety is paramount, and the standards of all doctors working in general practice in England will be maintained. In addition, they will make sure that UK-trained doctors will not be disadvantaged as a result of the programme.

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