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NHS England releases extra funding to boost GP workforce

NHS England has announced a new wave of funding to recruit talented doctors from overseas for GP practices across the country.

As part of NHS England’s International GP Recruitment Programme, more than £2 million has been committed to recruit additional GPs for GP practices in the regional areas. While GP training places are increasing year on year and many GPs are returning to practice, more of them are retiring and the number of GPs is not increasing fast enough.

NHS England will commission recruitment providers to identify potential overseas doctors and will support them through the recruitment process. A national recruitment centre will be set up to work with the recruitment providers and with local commissioners to coordinate the programme. Recruited GPs will then be allocated to GP practices.

Before any of the doctors start, they will need to pass stringent tests, including an industry-standard English language test. The main focus for recruitment will initially be on countries in the European Economic Area (EEA) where doctors receive automatic recognition to join the General Medical Council’s GP Register. NHS England will also look to attract UK-trained doctors back to the UK. The process of recruiting the new GPs should take three years.

We have two pilots already running in Midlands and East – in Lincolnshire and Essex – and a further four have just been selected for funding in the programme roll-out: Birmingham and Solihull STP, Staffordshire STP, Cambridge and Peterborough STP, and Norfolk & Waveney and Suffolk CCGs. The four new schemes combined will be bringing 229 international GPs into our region; recruitment will begin in the autumn.

Dr Kiran Patel, Medical Director at NHS England (West Midlands) said: “Most new GPs will continue to be trained in this country, and general practice will benefit from the 25% increase in medical school places over the coming years. But the NHS has a proud history of ethically employing international medical professionals, with one in five GPs currently coming from overseas. This scheme will deliver new recruits to help improve services for our patients and reduce some of the pressure on hard working GPs in the area.”

Dr Edward Ng, GP Partner, Ley Hill Surgery said: “Like many other parts of the country, there is a shortage of GPs in Birmingham and Solihull. Our local GP workforce projection predicts an increasing shortfall of GPs over the next years, so worsening the difficulties patients might have in getting an appointment. The International GP Recruitment Programme should go some way towards easing the current pressures in local health provision and is to be welcomed.”

Case study

The International GP Recruitment Programme has initially focused on some of the most hard-to-recruit areas in England, with Lincolnshire being the most advanced, successfully recruiting 26 doctors into local general practice. A longlisting exercise, eligibility language assessment and subsequent face-to-face interview with practices in Lincolnshire were carried out. A matching exercise then ensued and confirmed job offers made. Successful candidates then followed a 12-week residential intensive training programme including language, clinical and practical workshops at a campus in Poland. A learning needs assessment has been completed for each candidate and this feeds into the doctor’s individualised Personal Development Plan.

As part of the General Practice Forward View, NHS England is reversing the historic underinvestment in general practice. An extra £2.4 billion will be invested nationally into general practice each year – a 14% real terms rise by 2021.

There will be at least 10,000 more staff working in general practice by 2020/21 – 5,000 more doctors and 5,000 other staff like clinical pharmacists, nurses, and physicians associates.

Find out more about the International GP Recruitment Programme and NHS England’s General Practice Forward View.