GP workforce statistics released by the Health and Social Care Information Centre show the extent of general practice’s dependency on overseas-trained doctors.
The figures showed how medical students are increasingly avoiding general practice due to workload pressures and negative press, senior GPs said.
Until urgent steps are taken to boost numbers of GP trainees from the UK, more doctors trained abroad will be needed to fill the gap, they argued.
22.3% of GPs are trained outside of the UK, an increase from 18.8% in 2004.
In NHS Barking and Dagenham, 71% of GPs were trained overseas.
Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the GPC, told GP that a lack of UK trainees meant that doctors from other countries were having to step in to fill the shortfall.
‘We need GPs from around the world to support the health service within the UK, and we simply don’t train enough within the UK to meet a growing population,’ he said.
‘We need to encourage more medical students and junior doctors to choose general practice, and to expose them more to general practice, so they see it more as an attractive option for the future.’
Dr Kailash Chand, deputy chairman of the BMA, told GP: ‘The incoming generation of junior doctors are shunning general practice.
‘We’ve got to make sure GP is attractive for British medical graduates, and until we’re able to fill that gap, we still need overseas doctors.’
The RCGP recently announced the GP Induction and Refresher Scheme, which it hopes will help to curb the GP workforce deficit.
Overseas doctors with no NHS experience can apply for supervised placements and a monthly £2,300 bursary.
Doctors trained in the UK are being increasingly put off from practicing in the country because of rising workload, patient demand and bureaucracy, says Dr Chand.
‘The GP shortage is huge – the recruitment and retention crisis is getting worse by the day,’ he said.
‘The percentage of GPs who are 55 or older is a huge number – if you talk to anybody about what’s going on with workload, revalidation, CQC, any GP I meet of that kind of age group, the first thing they talk about is trying to get out.’
‘Looking at all those things, we need people from overseas to fill that gap, but the important things are to make sure their clinical knowledge, communication skills and understanding of British culture are up to scratch.’
Refocus on students
The RCGP has called for general practice to be designated a ‘shortage occupation’ to make it easier for overseas doctors to apply to work here, but the Migration Advisory Committee rejected the proposal.
‘The people who make that judgement decided there should be a refocusing on medical students and junior doctors, as they believe there were enough graduates, but not enough emphasis on them choosing general practice as a career,’ said Dr Vautrey.
The focus is now on encouraging students to join general practice, although GPs trained abroad are still a vital part of general practice.
‘The RCGP and BMA should join hands to make general practice more attractive so we don’t need people from overseas, but as long as there is a gap we’ve got to welcome people,’ said Dr Chand.
The story comes after GP leaders criticised the bureaucracy facing GPs who wanted to return to work in the UK.
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