MEDICS cautiously welcomed plans yesterday to bring in 600 GPs from overseas but stressed that thousands more are needed to tackle Britain’s crippling GP shortage.
NHS England announced a “major boost” for GP numbers as it expands an international recruitment drive.
It said an additional 600 overseas doctors will be recruited in 2017/18 and that it plans to bring in at least 2,000 doctors from abroad over the next three years.
However the “boost” comes after a serious decline in the number of GPs with 600 fewer doctors in the sector in June 2017 than March 2016.
The number is also well below the 5,000 additional GPs that the Tories promised to bring into the NHS by 2020.
Royal College of GPs chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard welcomed the announcement and praised the contribution of GPs from overseas.
However she said the pledges made in NHS England’s GP Forward View, including £2.4 billion extra a year and 5,000 additional GPs by 2020 must be delivered “as a matter of urgency.”
The programme to bring in overseas GPs will initially be available to doctors trained within the European Economic Area whose qualifi cations are recognised in Britain.
NHS England said new recruits will be expected to meet the “highest standards of practice including being able to speak good English.”
The drive to increase GP numbers comes after NHS Digital statistics released last month showed that 202 GP surgeries were forced to close or merge in 2016 alone.
The future also looks bleak as research shows that two in every five GPs are planning to retire or quit their jobs within the next five years.
Labour’s shadow health minister Justin Madders said: “With fewer GPs in place now than in 2015, the Tories are failing on their promise to recruit more general practitioners.
“The end result is that it is getting increasingly difficult to see a GP, with people facing longer waits for routine appointments as pressure on A&Es mount.
“This government’s management of the NHS workforce has been a disaster.
“Across the country patients are paying the price for the Tories’ failure to get enough GPs in place.”