The NHS is to recruit doctors from Australia in the latest initiative to boost GP numbers.
NHS England will target GPs who previously left the UK for Australia and are looking to return home, as well as those who want to relocate the UK.
A global recruitment drive is being widened to Australia after the NHS received applications from more than 1,200 GPs in Europe.
NHS England Director of Primary Care Delivery Dominic Hardy said: “It’s no secret the NHS needs to recruit more GPs, so it makes sense to head to Australia where doctors’ skills, training and high levels of care closely match those of their British counterparts.”
The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has warned of a “crisis” in the GP workforce, and released figures suggesting that three-quarters are aged 55 or over and approaching retirement age. Chairwoman Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: “Australia is the first country we have evaluated because we know their training and experience is similar to that of the UK and there are doctors wanting to come to the UK but it has always been an arduous process for them.
“The streamlined system is intended to cut out a huge amount of bureaucracy, and bring these doctors into placements and work much quicker than before.”
NHS England said another 700 doctors have applied to join an improved induction and refresher scheme, including more than 200 from overseas.
Mr Hardy added: “We are pulling out all the stops to solve the shortage of GPs. That’s why we are commissioning two specialist UK recruitment agencies to target Aussie doctors and stretch our search for top talent from Europe to the other side of the world.”