Speaking at an event on cultural sensitivities in GP education at the RCGP annual conference 2015 in Glasgow, RCGP medical director for quality management and training standards Dr Jonathan Foulkes said the UK needed more international medical graduates, but many would struggle to adapt over a three-year course.
'We know that if people are given time they can learn about the UK's language and culture and assimilate,' he said. 'We need international medical graduates to come into the UK and we should be pushing for at least four years' training. Three may be enough for many UK graduates, but for many international medical graduates it will not be.'
The debate comes just over a year after the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) fought a high court legal battle with the RCGP over claims that the CSA element of MRCGP exams was discriminatory. A judge ruled that the exam was fair despite evidence that overseas-trained medical graduates were far more likely to fail the exam than their UK counterparts.
Support for overseas GPs
Speakers at the event called for more support to help overseas graduates and doctors adapt to the NHS.
Head of primary care education and development at Health Education South London Dr John Spicer said that during the recruitment process to GP trainee posts, candidates scores should be used to identify those who might benefit from additional support.
He said that support for overseas doctors and trainees in the NHS had not been as good as it should be. 'We live in a diverse society. GPs of all clinicians may be closest to that diversity. We have subgroups in the profession who have kept the NHS afloat, to whom we owe a great debt but who we have not served as well as we might have done.'
Around a quarter of doctors in the UK are overseas graduates, the speakers said.
Dr Amit Gupta, associate dean, Oxford, and a member of BAPIO said trainees who came on cultural assimilation courses frequently said they wished that cultural differences they were likely to experience had been explained to them at an early stage, and said short induction courses for graduates from overseas hoping to train in the UK could help.