Minister to consider forcing GP trainees to stay in UK

Military-style restrictions could be placed on medical training to tie newly-qualified GPs to the NHS and stop them moving abroad, the government's primary care minister has said.

Earl Howe: brain drain warning (Photo: Alex Deverill)
Earl Howe: brain drain warning (Photo: Alex Deverill)

Speaking at an RCGP fringe meeting at the Conservatives’ party conference in Birmingham, Earl Howe suggested one solution to the 'brain drain’ was to make training funding conditional on remaining in the country and serving the NHS for a set period.

‘There is a drain of doctors,' the minister said in response to a question from a conference delegate. ‘There is an issue. There are doctors who disappear to other countries quite soon after they train. That is a drain on the system.

'Answers on a postcard as to what we could do about it. I suppose, one is to make the funding for medical training conditional on the doctor actually serving in the NHS for a given period of time. I don't know what the BMA would have to say about that. It's quite a dramatic step to take in a free society.’

Military-style scheme

Earl Howe said that the British military made its university funding conditional on graduates serving a given period in the forces. ‘Maybe it should be thought about and I will take that point back with me,' he said. ‘But I'm not convinced that the issue is of such magnitude that we need to resort to a step like that.’

A national survey of final-year trainee GPs in August found that one in eight plan to leave the UK in the next 12 months

Wessex LMCs chief executive Dr Nigel Watson, who organised the survey, told GP that the high numbers of trainees planning to move abroad reflected deep concerns about taking on full-time general practice roles in the current environment.

‘I think this is about UK graduates who spend time in general practice and say: "At this stage in my career I don’t want to take on general practice full time".

‘So they will go to Australia and come back when things are better.’

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