(Time to read: 6 minutes)
The recruitment of GPs remains a major headache for practice managers. Figures from NHS Digital show that almost 1,300 full-time equivalent GPs have been lost from the NHS workforce over the past two years. Throw into the mix a failure to recruit sufficient numbers into GP training posts and it’s easy to see why so many practices have long-term GP vacancies.
The latest solution to come out of NHS England is to focus on international recruitment – the plan is to recruit at least 2,000 suitably qualified doctors into general practice in England by 2020, with NHS England funding the cost of recruiting, relocating and training overseas doctors. 500 of the target are, somewhat optimistically given current progress, due to be in place by April this year. The initiative is all part of the General Practice Forward View’s commitment to strengthen the primary care workforce.
Where will the GPs come from?
Recruitment will initially focus on GPs from the EEA. The advantage here is that GP training is recognised in the UK, which means GPs can automatically join the GMC’s register. A total of 26 doctors are working in 16 practices across Lincolnshire because of the pilot. The fully-qualified GPs have come from seven EU countries, namely France, Spain, Italy, Poland, Romania, Lithuania and Croatia. All have gone through eligibility language assessment and face-to-face interviews with practices.
Discussions are taking place, however, for a ‘second wave’ of recruits from outside the EEA, kicking off with Australia. The GMC and RCGP are discussing how to regulate the new recruits so that it the process is streamlined but safe. More information on this is expected within the next few months.
Is it nationwide?
The International GP Recruitment Programme is initially focused on a number of ‘the most hard to recruit areas’. The initial pilot for the scheme took place in Lincolnshire, Essex and Cumbria.
Following the deemed success of the pilot, the programme is being extended into additional areas, which are:
- 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
How do I get one of these new GPs?
In short, you have to register your interest with commissioners – who have been, or are in the process of, writing to practices in the above areas. The programme applies to all practices, with no specific barriers or rules set out.
I’m outside of those areas but I’m struggling to recruit. What about me?
There’s good news. While the programme is initially focused on the 11 areas listed, the plan is to widen the offering. As such, other CCGs and Sustainability and Transformation Partnership areas will be invited to gauge interest in recruiting to any vacancies, so it’s worth contacting your local organisation.
How will NHS England do this?
NHS England has set up an international recruitment office, which is setting standards for the recruiters it will work with to recruit and relocate overseas GPs. It will also develop what it’s calling a ‘supportive package of measures’ to ensure GPs are helped with practical issues such as housing and education. This office will also take on an overseeing role in matching individual clinicians with practices who identify themselves as being interested in taking on an international recruit.
NHS England says it is also investigating ways it can act as a sponsor for these GPs for visa purposes, which will remove one of the admin burdens practices have in employing GPs, especially those from outside the EEA.
What further support will be available to GPs to help with the overseas recruitment?
While practices will remain responsible for salary and employment costs, the International GP Recruitment Programme will support practices in ensuring language or relocation barriers are overcome and that recruits can settle successfully.
What training is included in the programme?
This is expected to vary from one CCG/STP to another. However, the Lincolnshire pilot provides a few pointers.
The doctors in the Lincolnshire scheme first attended a 12-week residential intensive training programme at a campus in Poland, which worked to ensure candidates’ English language and knowledge and skills around basic NHS processes were up to scratch. GPs were given bursaries to attend.
Each GP then completed a learning needs assessment, which feeds into their individualised personal development plan. They also have an individual clinical educational plan, which follows a similar blueprint to the MRCGP, covering areas such as clinical updates, screening and immunisation updates, medicines management and prescribing, regulatory aspects, primary care administration, unscheduled care and the role of allied health professionals. In addition, the recruits have undertaken mandatory online training requirements such as infection control, information governance and safeguarding. Training is based around the RCGP curriculum.
The GPs will be mentored by their recruiting practices, for which surgeries have been given a small amount of funding.
Will it work?
According to a Lincolnshire GP whose surgery took part in a pilot project to attract overseas doctors to Lincolnshire, the answer is yes.
The Ingham Practice, part of NHS Lincolnshire West Clinical Commissioning Group, recruited Dr Mihaela Koroknai to the surgery in May 2017 as part of the pilot which was run in Lincolnshire. The pilot was funded by NHS England with support from the Lincolnshire Local Medical Committee.
Dr Radi Sultan, partner at the surgery, said his new GP had been well received by patients and he is pleased with how the programme has worked. “It is a very well-organised programme with a three-month introduction for GPs preparing them for working in the NHS. There is great support for the GPs who are coming to the UK. There is relocation support and continuing training both by the programme and the practices.
“Having a full time GP is a great help in managing the workload of the surgery. Dr Koroknai has been received very well by the patients and staff alike. She has proved to be very popular and an excellent clinician. I am sure she will contribute significantly to the improvement of patient care. We have had excellent feedback from patients who have seen her.”
Dr Sultan continued: “Dr Koroknai is highly qualified with an excellent background in surgery and general practice back home. She was already GMC registered and had experience of working in the UK. This meant she was well prepared for working with us. Bearing in mind the shortage of GPs in the country, this is a very good programme that addresses this recruitment issue.”
Where can I read more?
For more information on the scheme, head along to the relevant section of the NHS England website, which can be found here.
What do you think of this scheme? Would you be happy with an international recruit? What are the pros and cons? Let us know by commenting below or head along to the Practice Index Forum thread here.
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