Health bosses are planning to recruit trained GPs from India in a bid to tackle the GP staffing crisis in the NHS.
Health Education England (HEE) has signed an agreement with Indian hospitals chain Apollo Hospitals which could bring up to 400 trained GPs to England, Management in Practice’s sister title Pulse has announced.
HEE said: “England and India have signed a memorandum of understanding as a starting point to explore how both counties can benefit from a mutual exchange of ideas.”
Apollo Hospitals, which are based in Chennai, said the discussions were at an early stage but could see an exchange of clinical staff.
The company said: “We have signed this memorandum of understanding as a starting point to exploring how both countries can benefit from the mutual exchange of ideas and clinical staff in improving the education and training of healthcare staff and therefore the quality of care provided to patients.”
However the GPC’s chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul told Pulse that the recruitment drive was “an admission of failure” of the government’s aim to plug the gap in the number of homegrown GPs.
He said it showed the pledge to recruit 5,000 GPs by 2020 was “collapsing into chaos.”
He added that overseas doctors made a “valuable contribution” to healthcare in the UK.
Dr Maureen Baker, the chairwoman of the Royal College of General Practitioners said it welcomed expressions of interest from GPs outside the EU who want to work in the UK.
She said: “They would first have to undergo GP specialty training and pass our rigorous assessment.”
Doctors would also have to pass the General Medical Council’s professional linguistic and assessments board test.
Baker added: “The Royal College of General Practitioners has had a longstanding partnership with Apollo Medvarsity in India, and we accredit their Diploma in Family Medicine – but this recognises excellence in family medicine at an International level. It is not a shortcut to becoming a GP in the UK.
“Over 3,000 GP trainees a year take the College’s exam. The MRCGP (Membership of the Royal College of General Practitioners) a world-renowned, comprehensive and robust assessment that demonstrates to us – and crucially, our patients – that our trainees are ready to practise independently and safely.”
However some GPs have pointed out that doctors in India might be unwilling to move to the UK, as they already enjoy good pay, without having to deal with some of the bureaucracy which gives NHS doctors a headache.