Overseas doctors are to be brought in to parts of Yorkshire as a drive is launched to fill a “gap” in the number of GPs in the region.
Across the country, more than a third of GPs are set to retire in the next five years, and many younger doctors are turning to locum posts rather than take up traditional practice. Now, amid concerns over workloads and a dwindling workforce, funding of more than £2m has been set aside for parts of Yorkshire - including Scarborough, Hull and East Riding - to recruit GPs from overseas over the next three years.
“Like most areas of the country, there are difficulties in recruitment and retention of GPs and practice nurses with many clinicians in our area approaching retirement age,” said Dr Peter Melton, Humber, Coast and Vale STP lead. “This new initiative will give doctors from other parts of Europe the opportunity to find out about the many opportunities available to them here.”
Nationwide, the drive is set to see practices across England gain around 600 family doctors by April next year, and 2,000 over the next three years. The Humber, Coast and Vale area, which also includes North and North East Lincolnshire, is the first in Yorkshire to see funding committed.
NHS England says that while GP training places are increasing and a number of GPs are returning, many practices in the region still face recruitment issues.
Geoff Day, head of primary care commissioning at NHS England for the region said this was one of many measures being put in place to ease the pressures.
“People are living longer, facing more complex conditions, and there is increased expectation and demand on GPs,” he said. “In terms of workload I think it’s fair to say we’ve seen significant increase in the past few years. This is one of a number of ways we are trying to tackle GP recruitment. We need to tackle it on all fronts.”
The recruitment scheme will initially focus on medics from the European Economic Area (EEA), whose GP training is recognised in the UK. Before any of the doctors start work, they will need to pass “stringent tests” including an English language test.
Dr Richard Vautrey, chair of the BMA GPs committee, said any investment is to be welcomed but cautioned that fundamental issues around workload pressures still need to be addressed: “We have always recognised the value of and depended on doctors from abroad. We need to ensure that they are appropriately supported when they come to the UK.”