THE UK’s National Health Service education bosses are looking into bringing GPs (General Practitioners) over from India to help increase the number of doctors in England.
Health Education England (HEE) has signed a “memorandum of understanding” (MoU) with Apollo Hospitals in India that could lead to a flow of staff into the NHS if they pass rigorous tests.
This week, researchers warned that the increase in England’s GP workloads (which has risen by 16 per cent during the past seven years) was unsustainable. Doctors’ leaders said general practice was in crisis after the study showed that family doctors in England are dealing with more frequent and longer consultations with rising numbers of patients.
HEE was requested by the UK government to increase GP numbers by 5,000 by 2020. In the new memorandum of understanding, the plan is to share ideas and staff with India.
The GP recruitment campaign is now underway and HEE in a statement said: “England and India have signed a memorandum of understanding as a starting point to exploring how both countries can benefit from the mutual exchange of ideas. The details of the MoU are still in discussion.
“Since its establishment in 2013, HEE has honoured its commitment to invest more in GP training by increasing the number of training posts available. We spend nearly £500 million a year on GP training. We will be working closely with NHS England to provide 5,000 more doctors in general practice by 2020.”
Apollo Hospitals in a statement 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.
“These are initial discussions, but we look forward to announcing the outcomes of this work over the coming months and years as it progresses.”
Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) refuted the idea that doctors from India or elsewhere would not be simply parachuted into the NHS.
“We welcome any expressions of interest from doctors outside of the EU wanting to work in the NHS,” said Dr Baker.
“But they would first have to undergo GP specialty training, and pass our rigorous entrance assessment. They would also have to pass the GMC’s professional linguistic and assessments board test.
“The RCGP 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. This (MRCGP) is 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.
“The college is working hard to ‘recruit, retain and return’ as many GPs as possible so that we can continue to give our patients the safe care they deserve. If doctors from outside of the UK can undergo and pass our rigorous assessment process, then we would welcome their skills and expertise in UK general practice.”
Dr Ramesh Mehta, president of the British Association of Physicians, who is of Indian Origin, told Pulse magazine, which revealed details of the plan, that his contacts in India said HEE wanted as many GPs as possible.
He said: “I think it is a pity that HEE have to go abroad to recruit for GP positions. Unfortunately, the training of GPs has not been managed properly over the years.”
GPs who come over from India would have to be “given proper support and mentoring so they don’t land in trouble, as has happened in the past when doctors are put in the NHS without proper induction”, he added.
Dr Umesh Prabhu, former chair and current member of the British International Doctors’ Association executive committee, was also sceptical of the plan and said: “This is a most dangerous thing, because these doctors are not trained to be GPs in the UK. Their training is entirely different. I have concerns for the doctors’ safety and the patients’ safety.”