A flagship recruitment programme has recruited more than 150 overseas doctors to the NHS, according to the Government.
The International GP Recruitment (IGPR) Programme, set up in April 2016, initially aimed to recruit 500 foreign doctors by 2020. But a year later, NHS England increased its goal, aiming to recruit between 2,000 and 3,000 GPs.
Primary care minister Jo Churchill last week revealed that the scheme has now attracted more than 150 doctors through the ‘extended national programme and the pilots’.
However, GP leaders have expressed disappointment over the slow uptake of the scheme, which is ‘falling far short’ of its targets.
The updated figure comes despite the scheme bringing 12 GPs to Northamptonshire in just six months since its launch, while a total of 120 overseas doctors had been recruited this year – 70 of which are in the country in placements or seeing patients in practices.
Labour MP Gareth Snell asked health and social care secretary Matt Hancock how many GPs were recruited to the NHS under the IGPR Programme in 2018 and 2019 and how much the scheme has cost the public.
In response, Ms Churchill said: ‘The IGPR Programme was announced in August 2017 and recruitment began from April 2018. Prior to this, four pilot schemes were established between May 2016 and November 2017.
‘The IGPR programme has now recruited over 150 doctors from overseas through the extended national programme and the pilots. These are part of the pipeline of over 350 doctors who are currently working through the Induction and Refresher scheme aimed at supporting both international general practitioners joining general practice in England and domestically trained doctors wishing to return to practice.’
Recruitment ‘one of biggest pressures’
BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘Recruitment remains one of the biggest pressures facing general practice, and it’s clear that we need to look further than our own shores if we stand any chance of solving the workforce crisis.
‘The IGPR Programme is falling far short of the targets set by NHS England, but it is important that we continue to look for ways to encourage overseas doctors to work in the NHS.
‘At a time when GP workload is soaring and waiting times are longer than ever before, we need the process of joining and returning to general practice to be as simple as possible – not just for the benefit of our patients, but ultimately the entire NHS.’
RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘Any increase in the GP workforce is a good thing and should be celebrated – and we certainly welcome the doctors who have entered the profession via the international recruitment scheme, and are now on the frontline of the NHS delivering patient care. However, it is clear that demand for this scheme hasn’t been as high as expected.’
She added: ‘Ultimately, we need the next iteration of the NHS people plan to include more detail of comprehensive initiatives to further boost GP recruitment – including an expansion of GP training places to 5,000 a year – and introduce meaningful initiatives to retain our existing workforce, so that we can deliver the care our patients need and deserve.’
In May, recruitment agencies approved by NHS Employers to recruit international GPs revealed that Brexit was the ‘one thing slowing down international recruitment because of uncertainty.‘