A contract notice published this month revealed that NHS England now expects between 2,000 and 3,000 overseas recruits to make up the 5,000 additional GPs it is required to recruit by 2020.
Last month chief executive Simon Stevens quadrupled the original overseas target from 500 to 2,000. Some 600 of these GPs are expected to be working in practices in 11 areas across England by April 2018.
The contract notice said recruitment firms could be paid up to £100m to bring overseas GPs to England over a 36- to 48-month period.
The contract notice said: ‘A key part of the [GP Forward View] is to recruit a proportion of the additional 5,000 general medical practitioners from overseas from Autumn 2017 through to April 2020. It is currently anticipated that between 2,000 and 3,000 of those 5,000 GPs may be recruited from overseas. This is an approximate number based on anticipated requirements. The actual number of GPs recruited through this potential framework agreement may be more or less than the anticipated 2,000 to 3,000.’
The government has mandated NHS England to increase GP numbers by 5,000 compared with 2014.
New workforce statistics published this month revealed a 1% increase in FTE GPs between March and June. However, that followed a significant drop in the workforce late last year, which saw the FTE GPs fall by 445.
In 2016 health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced £100m to fund an additional 1,500 medical school places a year from 2018 which he said would end the NHS’s reliance on overseas doctors.
GPC England’s executive lead for workforce Dr Krishna Kasaraneni said: ‘Overseas doctors have for many years provided outstanding levels of care to patients across the NHS and with the current problems facing the GP workforce could provide valuable help in maintaining struggling services.
‘However, the government needs a long-term plan that addresses the fundamental pressures on general practice from rising patient demand, stagnating budgets and widespread GP shortages. Even taken into account recent announcements, the government is still going to be well short of its target of recruiting 5,000 new GPs by 2020, especially as recent figures suggested that there had been barely any increase in the number of GPs working in England in the past year and that there may even have been a decline since 2015 when the new target was announced.’
NHS England director of primary care Dr Arvind Madan told the FT that most new GPs would still be trained in the UK, but overseas doctors were essential to maintaining services.
‘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 patients and reduce some of the pressure on hard-working GPs across the country.’