Overseas GP returners face huge bureaucracy to return to UK, say GP leaders

GPs who have been practising overseas have met 'insurmountable hurdles' trying to return to work in the UK, GP leaders have said.

Dr Loader: ‘If I’d have known what was involved, I’d have stayed in New Zealand.’
Dr Loader: ‘If I’d have known what was involved, I’d have stayed in New Zealand.’

Irreversible damage has been done to the NHS’s ability to recruit from abroad, say LMC chairmen, even with the GP Induction and Refresher (I&R) scheme beginning soon, which aims to make it easier for overseas GPs to work in the UK.

New Zealand GP Dr Nancy Loader returned to the UK, where she had trained and practised, in February. Despite successfully applying for a position at Beccles Medical Centre in Suffollk, she will not be able to practise until the summer.

After receiving reassurances from the local education and training board that it would be relatively simple to be added to the performers list, she had to repeat checks she had undergone before arriving.

She has been asked to apply to the new I&R scheme but has to wait until June before taking the multiple-choice test to assess her clinical knowledge, leaving her without income for a further three months.

Dr Loader told GP:  ‘If I’d have known what was involved, I’d have stayed in New Zealand.’

Former colleagues who have heard of the difficulties getting onto the performers list are likely to be put off from emigrating here, she said.

‘New Zealand will be delighted because it solves its workforce crisis,’ she said.

National disaster

Dr Tim Morton, partner at the Beccles Medical Centre and chairman of the Norfolk and Waveney LMC, told GP: ‘It’s bureaucracy getting in the way of common sense.’

‘As much as being a disaster for Dr Loader, and a disaster for our practice, it’s a national disaster, given our acute workforce pressures,’ he said.

‘The reputation of the NHS has gone down the pan as far as recruitment is concerned. They’ve managed to cut off any chance of recruitment from New Zealand and Australia.

‘I don’t think the I&R scheme will help – I think the damage has been done. The way they’ve treated Nancy and the others has done far more damage then they could ever believe. You’re not going to apply when you see how other people have been treated.’

Dr Loader said that the I&R scheme would still be surrounded by unnecessary bureaucracy.

‘I don’t think it’s going to be particularly helpful to UK doctors in New Zealand either because it’s still very difficult, they still insist on GMC registration first and that means you have to come over and have an ID check first,’ she said.

Onerous process

Dr Paul Roblin, chief executive of the Berks, Bucks and Oxon LMC, told GP that the rules are ‘illogical’.

Returners are ‘made to go through pretty onerous reassessment processes which seem disproportionate to any reasonable estimate of deskilling whilst they’re abroad’, he said.

‘These are decisions made by non-clinicians, who don’t understand the skill requirements of general practice.

'I think LMCs should be intimately involved in all these discussions, otherwise these decisions are made by people in ivory towers,’ he said.

A spokeswoman for Health Education England told GP that the new scheme ‘has working clinicians working as leads on the programme across the country so there is substantial clinical input’.

Intercollegial recognition

The GPs believe that the UK should recognise qualifications and experience from New Zealand and Australia, where revalidation systems are similar to those in the UK.

Dr Morton said: ‘We should be developing some kind of reciprocal agreement with the royal colleges down under.’

Dr Roblin believe that the ‘tickbox mentality’ needs to end, saying: ‘We need to have decision makers who aren’t fearful of things going wrong, who recognise that we have a workforce crisis and who minimise the obstacles for good GPs to get back on the list.’

Dr Loader is still deciding whether to wait in the UK to do the test in June, or to return to New Zealand.

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