‘Shocking’ Reports and Staff Shortages: Why the NHS needs foreign GPs more than ever


With the recent election result and continued Brexit negotiations, a lot of the limelight has been pointed squarely in the face of the NHS. In our last post on this, we talked about how the new government structure could have a knock-on effect for EU nationals, and it seems that the media storm has not yet subsided on its coverage of this topic.

Today, we’ll be covering a variety of stories that have cropped up lately, including the news that the health service plans to recruit 2,000 foreign GPs in order to meet staff targets, and poor performance reports. Whether you’ve spotted them yourself and you’re wondering where it leaves you as a medical professional, or the whole things leaves you confused about the future of the NHS, we hope today’s blog post should clear things up.

What’s the back-story?

Earlier this year, it was announced that, as part of an international scheme for medical professionals, the NHS would look to hire 500 trained and qualified GPs from the EU by 2020. According to the official website, this meant that NHS England not only provided funding to four international recruitment schemes, but they also committed to funding the cost of recruiting, relocating and training overseas doctors as part of the programme.

Initially, this was met with mixed reviews. On the one hand, people were focused on the ‘generous package’ that would be guaranteed to GPs who made the move, including a £90,000 salary. Others looked upon it as a complete back-track on the pledge by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to ‘make the NHS self-sufficient in doctors’.

However, given the consistent stories about inefficiencies within the NHS, some met the news with positivity, such as Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners. She commented: “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.”

Talking about the new programme, a spokesperson for NHS England told the press: “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.”

What’s the latest?

This statement by the NHS certainly seems to be true, as it’s recently been reported that instead of 500 GPs, the figure has catapulted to 2,000. According to the Independent, Simon Stevens, Head of NHS England, has stated that this goal is imperative if the organisation is to meet its targets and alleviate staffing pressures.

Mr Stevens told the press: “Although there are some good signs of progress on increases in the GP training scheme, nevertheless there are real pressures around retirements. The conclusion we’ve come to is that, in order to increase the likelihood of being able to have 5,000 more doctors in general practice, we are going to need […] a significantly expanded industrial-scale international recruitment programme. We intend to launch that in the autumn. Rather than the current 500 or so GPs that are being targeted for international recruitment […] it probably needs to be four times more than that, from international sources.”

Amongst the public and other official bodies though, if the previous move was seen as a backtrack on previous claims, Acting Chairman of the BMA’s General Practitioner’s Committee (GPC), Dr Richard Vautrey, labels this as a “clear admission of failure” by the Government to properly staff the NHS.

Dr Vautrey commented: “Overseas doctors have for decades provided a valuable contribution to the NHS, especially in general practice, where they have a strong track record of providing first-class patient care. However, this announcement is yet another clear admission of failure from the Government, which is effectively conceding it cannot meet its own target of recruiting 5,000 extra GPs without an emergency draft of doctors from abroad.

“General practice is currently under unsustainable pressure from rising patient demand, falling resources and widespread staff shortages. We need a long-term solution that addresses these workload pressures, which lead to low morale amongst existing GPs and create a climate which is putting off medical graduates from choosing general practice as a career.”

Why are foreign staff needed?

Dr Vautrey’s comments will ring true with many professionals and members of the public who have witnessed the decline in performance of the NHS. Adding yet more fuel to the fire was a recent enquiry which delivered ‘shocking’ results.

The National Confidentiality Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death examined the treatment of 50,000 patients who receive emergency oxygen treatment each year. The enquiry discovered that one in three patients who require emergency help with their breathing are dying, with staff and equipment shortages contributing factors.

This statistic looks specifically at patients who receive non-invasive intervention (NIV) oxygen through a face mask; not only did the majority of patients receive sub-standard care, but the report found a “wide variation in both the organisation of acute NIV services and the clinical care provided”. Treatment was often delayed or given where it was inappropriate and palliative care would have been the better option, which according to experts could have prolonged the suffering of dying patients.

Similarly, staff shortages were supposedly to blame for the rise in cancelled operations. According to reports, the lack of available anaesthetists, surgeons, consultants and theatre staff, on top of bed shortages and a lack of theatre time, are the main reasons for the 12,000 procedures which were cancelled last year – a rise of 35% in just three years.

What does it mean for me?

It’s easy to get caught up in the furore of media reports and forget the facts, which is why we’re here to guide you. Clearly, the NHS is in such high need of medical professionals that the organisation is putting massive international recruitment drives in place to help solve the issue.

While nothing is certain of the outcome of Brexit negotiations, it’s safe to assume that the EU nationals currently living and working in the UK will be more than welcome to stay and continue their excellent work as part of the health service. On top of that, if anyone is considering a move to the UK, not only are there many avenues for you to explore to make this career move a reality, but with such fantastic training and relocation packages on offer, it couldn’t be a better time to take the plunge.

If you’re a medical professional considering taking on a position within our NHS, make sure you get in touch with one of our advisors. We have years of experienced helping individuals just like you achieve their move, and our dedicated team is always on hand to give you guidance. You can call us on 020 7381 8111, or email us at law@hylton-potts.com.

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