NHS England is close to launching a £30m contract framework that will invite companies to tender to hire 500 general practitioners from the European Union (EU).
The move is part of NHS England’s General Practice Forward View, which pledged to recruit 5,000 more GPs by 2020 and invest £2.4bn extra funding into general practice each year.
A spokesperson for NHS England said the international scheme was just one of various schemes being explored to increase GP numbers in the UK: “UK GPs are being trained but we are exploring all avenues to boost the workforce in the short term and the international scheme is just one of these.
“There are various schemes we and our partners are running to increase GP numbers. For example, the induction and refresher scheme can help GPs return to the UK if they have moved abroad and some will come via this route.”
The contract will go out to tender on 5 July with a three-year contract due to begin on 25 September. It is unclear what impact Brexit will have on potential applicants from the EU.
Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, a professional membership body for GPs in the UK, said: “Workload in general practice is escalating — it has risen 16% over the last seven years – yet investment in our service has declined and we are desperately short of GPs. It is imperative that we do everything possible to address this, including recruiting more GPs, retaining existing ones and making it easier for trained GPs to return to practice after a career break.”
Calling it a “lifeline” for the profession, Stokes-Lampard added: “We welcome any GP from the EU or further afield who wants to work in UK general practice — as long as they meet the rigorous standards set by the College and General Medical Council to ensure safe practice — to contribute to delivering care to more than one million patients a day. Indeed, thousands already do, and we are incredibly grateful for their skills and expertise.
“We also need the position of EU GPs already working in UK general practice to be safeguarded beyond doubt as part of Brexit negotiations, and we are calling for GPs to be added to the Migration Advisory Committee’s shortage occupation list, to make it easier for family doctors from overseas who want to live here and work in UK general practice to do so.”
The deadline for applications is mid-August 2017.