NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens revealed yesterday that he plans to recruit 2,000 GPs from overseas to tackle the crisis in primary care.
Some GP leaders have condemned the plans as a “sticking plaster” solution.
But the Royal College of GPs welcomed the plans – while calling for the government to amend its policies to protect overseas GPs.
Chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: “We welcome any GP from the EU or further afield who wants to work in UK general practice – as long as they meet the rigorous standards set by the College and General Medical Council to ensure safe clinical practice – to contribute to delivering care to over one million patients every day.
“Indeed, thousands of GPs from overseas already work alongside UK GPs, and we are incredibly grateful for their skills and expertise.
“We also need the position of EU GPs already working in UK general practice to be safeguarded beyond doubt as part of Brexit negotiations – and we are calling for GPs to be added to the Migration Advisory Committee’s shortage occupation list, to make it easier for family doctors from overseas who want to live here and work in UK general practice to do so.”
Mr Stevens told the Health Service Journal yesterday: “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, from international sources — the rest of the EU and possibly New Zealand and Australia.”
Dr Richard Vautrey, acting British Medical Association GP committee chair, said: “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.
“Overseas doctors have for decades provided a valuable contribution to the NHS, especially in general practice where they have a strong track record of providing first class patient care. However, 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. “