Government must relax visa rules to help NHS recruit GPs, warns RCGP

A 'common sense' overhaul of visa rules is needed urgently to help the NHS recruit overseas doctors to work as GPs in the UK, the RCGP has warned.

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard (Photo: Pete Hill)
RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard (Photo: Pete Hill)

In a letter to home secretary Sajid Javid, RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard urged the government to relax immigration rules ‘for appropriately trained doctors who want to work as GPs in the UK’, warning that a failure to do so would make the government’s target of recruiting 5,000 more GPs by 2020 ‘increasingly difficult to achieve’.

Professor Stokes-Lampard also highlighted further barriers preventing eligible doctors from practising in the UK at a time of ‘desperate need’.

She warned that to tackle the recruitment crisis GPs should be added to the shortage occupation list managed by the migration advisory committee - which advises the government on immigration.

‘We have long called for GPs to be on the shortage occupation list, which cuts some of the arduous bureaucracy involved in relocating a GP to the UK from abroad. But despite our calls for urgent action, GPs are still not on the list,’ Professor Stokes-Lampard wrote.

GP workforce

‘We need an immigration system that puts human beings and common sense over policy and process, and works in the best interests of the British public,’ she added.

On Sunday, the home secretary confirmed plans for a review of the tier 2 visa cap.

The move was welcomed by BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul. He said: ‘It is important that the home secretary now acts swiftly with a practical solution, so that the NHS can recruit the several hundreds of available overseas doctors who can start work imminently to ease pressure in a health service under escalating strain.

‘The NHS could not survive without the vital contribution of overseas doctors, and it is vital that the government puts the needs of patients first by implementing a flexible immigration policy that allows us to employ the doctors needed to serve the health needs of the nation.’

This comes after Dr Nagpaul hit out at the home office last month over a bid to deport Luke Ong, a doctor who faces deportation after 10 years of studying and working in the UK and just five months before qualifying as a GP because his visa hearing came after a renewal deadline.

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