Demands for close scrutiny of the programme, set out in an RCGP progress report on the GP Forward View (GPFV), come two months after GPonline revealed that the scheme had signed up just 58 doctors in two years.
This is just 3% of the overall target of 2,000 overseas GPs NHS England hopes the programme will deliver by 2020. A further 68 doctors recruited from overseas were being assessed as potential additions to the GP workforce earlier this year, and officials have said more could join the NHS from September.
However, NHS England was unable to provide up-to-date figures for the international recruitment drive this week.
Meanwhile, an RCGP local ambassador for Nottinghamshire STP - quoted in the RCGP report - said: ‘We were expecting international recruits in April, then delayed until July and we have now been told to anticipate a much reduced supply, if at all.
‘Curiously, NHS England has employed administrators and clinical leads to support the programme so not sure how those resources will be used… Hopefully [they won’t be] wasted.’
The RCGP report says: ‘Progress against the international recruitment target should be reviewed before the end of 2018, with a view to releasing funding to other schemes if the expected pipeline of international recruits does not materialise.’
NHS England told GPonline that an update on the scheme’s progression would be made available towards the end of September and refused to comment on the RCGP’s report.
GP Forward View
The GPFV first set out plans for an international recruitment scheme in 2016, promising 500 GPs by 2020. This target was quadrupled last summer in what the BMA called a 'clear admission' that the government's GP recruitment drive was failing.
Despite the Home Office confirming in June that the tier 2 visa cap would be lifted for international doctors and nurses wishing to work in the UK, the RCGP has said this might be too little, too late.
'More should be done to contend with remaining visa issues, such as enabling NHS England to be a sponsoring employer for GPs and channeling resources to provide support with the visa process for overseas GP trainees in the UK,’ the report reads.
‘The international recruitment programme certainly has potential to bring much-needed doctors in general practice in England, but the number of doctors recruited in this way must increase rapidly if the scheme is to have the success it seeks.’
GP recruitment was highlighted by the RCGP as one of the GPFV’s ‘fundamental' problems in the college’s report, which concluded that an extra £2.5bn a year is needed in order to secure the future of general practice.
The additional funding would take total annual spending on general practice to £14.5bn a year - 11% of the NHS budget. Under current plans, the college warned, the proportion of NHS funding spent on general practice could fall to 8.9% by 2020/21, lower than it was before the GPFV was launched.
RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘[The GPFV] needs an urgent overhaul to address the pledges that are not progressing fast enough, particularly around retaining our existing workforce and reducing our workload; and to recognise the changing landscape of NHS funding, which now includes a promise of £20bn extra a year by 2023…
‘The new health and social care secretary recently identified workforce and prevention as his top priorities. If he is serious about tackling the workforce crisis and keeping patients out of hospital, it is essential that the government invests properly in general practice.’