Why We Need To Break Down Overseas Worker Barriers and add GPs to the Shortage Occupation List

GPs should be added to the shortage occupation list, and barriers should be broken down to allow more overseas GPs to work in the UK, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has announced.

Patients were unable to make an appointment with a GP or practice nurse on 47.5m occasions last year, according to a GP Patient Survey in July. With the public’s healthcare needs growing, recruitment of the GP workforce must meet this demand.

In order to tackle the severe lack of GPs across the UK, the RCGP are calling for a change in the visa process, and for the profession to appear alongside nurses, paramedics, old age psychiatrists and radiographers in the Shortage Occupation List.

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard highlighted how current visa processes for GPs from abroad wanting to work in the UK are contributing to a workforce shortage in general practice.

GPs from overseas who have trained in the UK and wish to practice after attaining MRCGP face an additional hurdle in applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain as speciality GP training is only three years – two years fewer than the minimum requirement of five years.

At the beginning of the year, NHS introduced a new scheme, a major expansion of its international GP recruitment programme. Chief executive Simon Stevens revealed that the scheme would look to recruit 2,000 overseas GPs by 2020.

At the time, BMA’s GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey welcomed the move: “Plans to recruit more doctors from overseas may help to provide much-needed GPs in the short term. Overseas professionals have a strong track record of providing first-rate care to patients in the NHS over many decades.”

Professor Stokes-Lampard said that though the RCGP supports and champions NHS England’s drive, there is ‘likely to be even more pressure on the visa application system and potentially even longer processing times.’

“With a high number of GPs set to retire in the next few years, the future of general practice is a serious concern. We need to do everything possible to make the process for GPs entering the UK workforce as simple and straightforward as possible.”

This is not the first time the RCGP has called for GPs to be added to the list – it was a key ask in its manifesto prior to the general election. It has also asked for assurances from the EU that GPs will have their status protected during Brexit negotiations.

Urging for action to improve visa processing and support for the RCGP’s call for GPs to be added to the Shortage Occupation List, Professor Stokes-Lampard concludes:

“This would help us to both keep the GPs providing an essential service to practices and patients across the UK, and to encourage more people to consider moving here and to help keep our health service going.”

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