Virtual reality app gives overseas doctors an insight into UK general practice

Overseas doctors who wish to work in the UK can now experience a day in the life of an NHS GP thanks to a new virtual reality app developed by the GMC.

GP consultation (Photo: SolStock/Getty Images)
GP consultation (Photo: SolStock/Getty Images)

The app - which has been created to encourage more international GPs to come and work in UK general practice - offers an immersive insight into how practices in England operate from a patient’s perspective.

The 360-degree interactive video allows users to follow patients through various key interactions with a multidisciplinary primary care team - including the moment they first make an appointment with their GP, or an episode of end of life care.

Doctors using the app are asked to listen to the patient and respond to a range of ethical scenarios throughout the virtual consultations, and are encouraged to apply GMC guidance where necessary.

International recruitment

GPonline reported in February than NHS England’s international GP recruitment scheme had brought just 34 doctors into the frontline workforce in three years, while an additional 42 doctors had joined the scheme but were not yet working.

GMC figures show that 2,123 doctors with international postgraduate medical qualifications - including graduates from the EEA and international medical graduates - joined the GP register between 2015 and 2018, although it is not possible to say how many of these doctors actually work in frontline general practice.

A further 182 doctors with international postgraduate medical qualifications have joined the GP register in 2019.

The NHS has repeatedly cited international recruitment as a key driver in boosting the GP workforce, and the interim workforce plan - published yesterday - stated that work is being done to ‘implement a collaborative system-level approach to the delivery of international recruitment’. This includes the identification of national ‘lead recruiter’ agencies with particular expertise to help grow the number of nurses and doctors from overseas in the UK.

Virtual reality

This is the first time the regulator has used virtual reality as an education tool. GMC international GP recruitment programme training and development manager, Kim Tolley, said: ‘The NHS is a world-renowned employer which continues to attract talented staff from across the globe. We hope this app will help international doctors understand the important role of GPs in the UK and how beneficial it can be to work in a supportive multidisciplinary team.’

Dr Mehreen Tahir, clinical lead for the international GP recruitment programme at NHS England and NHS Improvement London said: ‘It has been great working in partnership with the GMC to develop this virtual reality app that was filmed at the practice where I work in Raynes Park, South London.  

‘I am proud of being a GP in the NHS and it has been exciting to use this technology to promote the importance of the patient journey, something I feel is vital for GP’s who are new to UK practice.’

Overseas GPs who have used the app have praised its authenticity. One user commented: ‘It feels so real. It gives you the opportunity to see a real GP practice and a real consultation from the comfort of your own home.’

Another described the app as ‘a very useful tool for an international doctor to understand better how a GP practice is organised’, while a third said it was a ‘brilliant idea for teaching international GPs’.

App developer and GMC e-learning consultant Nick Moseley said: ‘It has been exciting to see doctors engage with this technology and get immersed in this new type of learning experience. You can tell a doctor about good practice, but it’s far more beneficial if we can show them. By using this app, doctors not only hear the theory, they see it modelled.’

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