NHS push to recruit Australian GPs with streamlined application process

NHS England is planning to recruit GPs from Australia after the RCGP and GMC revealed a streamlined process that could cut application time for Australian GPs from up to 12 months to around three months.

(Photo: iStock.com/MicroStockHub)
(Photo: iStock.com/MicroStockHub)

NHS England said its recruitment drive for international GPs to join the workforce was being widened to Australia after it had received applications from more than 1,200 GPs in Europe.

Another 700 doctors have also applied to join the improved induction and refresher scheme, including more than 200 from overseas.

The push to recruit Australian GPs will target GPs who left the UK for Australia and are looking to come back to England as well as Australian GPs who want to come and work in the UK.

Previously, applicants could expect to spend six months gathering evidence followed by three to four months of checking and evaluation by the RCGP and GMC. Successful applicants would then take entry assessments to an induction scheme, taking another three to four months, followed by a placement of up to three months.

The streamlined process has halved the amount of evidence required from applicants after the RCGP commissioned research to map the training, curricula, assessments and healthcare contexts of the two countries (see box below). The outcome revealed large similarities in training, so now the majority of evidence required is of post-qualification experience.

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘Australia is the first country we have evaluated because we know their training and experience is similar to that of the UK and that there are doctors wanting to come to the UK but it has always been a challenging process for them.

‘The streamlined system is intended to cut out a huge amount of bureaucracy, and bring these doctors into placements and work much more quickly and painlessly than before.’

International recruitment

The process was signed off last month and NHS England has engaged an international recruitment agency to encourage applications. NHS England will pay the application fees of candidates and help with visa and relocation costs.

There will be dedicated team members at the GMC and RCGP to liaise with the recruitment agency and to guide applicants through the process, which will move from paper-based to electronic by the end of 2018.

NHS England director of primary care delivery Dominic Hardy,  said: ‘It’s no secret the NHS needs to recruit more GPs, so it makes sense to head to Australia where doctors’ skills, training and high levels of care closely match those of their British counterparts.

‘The recruitment programme is gathering momentum with interest from GPs in Europe and we also have more home-grown GPs in training than ever before. But why stop there when we know many Australians would welcome the opportunity to work in an English clinical practice?’

Una Lane, GMC director of registration, said: ‘Overseas doctors already make a huge contribution to UK health care, and the GMC has worked with the RCGP to streamline the process and to reduce the bureaucracy for doctors in Australia who want to work here.

'As standards in Australia are similar to our own it should be as easy as possible for doctors from there to come to the UK, while at the same time maintaining the high standards that patients rightly expect from their GPs.’

The focus on encouraging UK-trained GPs working abroad to return to work in the UK will involve an easier route to an induction placement via the Portfolio Route which can be done from abroad and does not require assessments. For more information email cegpr@rcgp.org.uk.

A guide for international doctors relocating to work in the UK was launched by the college at last year’s Annual Conference and is available on the RCGP website here.

The new process - how long will it take?
  • Gathering evidence: applicant spends four weeks compared to up to 6 months previously.
  • GMC checks: 10 working days.
  • RCGP evaluation: 25 working days maximum to review, prepare, evaluate and recommend to GMC.
  • GMC response: 10 working days to issue a final outcome.
  • Total time with GMC and RCGP: maximum of nine weeks compared to a minimum of three to four months previously.
  • Induction: Direct entry to a placement of up to three months.

Read more from the RCGP annual conference

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