Plans to make it easier for failing trainee doctors and overseas medics to become family doctors are being drawn up by UK health officials, amid desperate shortages of GPs.
The Daily Telegraph reports that the government has pledged to increase the number of GPs by 5,000 by 2020, amid soaring waiting lists and record vacancies for doctors. But now officials are drawing up plans which could allow trainee medics to become a GP even if they have to take their exams six times, and are considering relaxing checks on doctors who trained abroad.
The report says the measures come as figures show that the number of full-time GPs has fallen by more than 1,250 since rescue plans were launched last year. Royal College of GPs said doctors were under “intense pressures” but said efforts to expand the workforce must not come “through the back door” or undermine safety.
Under plans from Health Education England, trainee GPs will get an extra six months to pass exams. And the training body is considering allowing such medics up to six attempts, compared with the current four.
Meanwhile, NHS England has announced a review of training and assessment of overseas doctors, to see if it is possible to “streamline” the process for those who were trained as GPs abroad. Currently, doctors can come to the UK from EU countries without checks on their competence, with their qualifications automatically recognised.
The report says the General Medical Council has now been asked to see if the process can be streamlined for those outside Europe, whose training is seen as equivalent to UK programme. The review will be carried out with the Royal College of GPs, who warned against any changes which jeopardise safety. Chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: "The College's number one priority is, and always will be, patient safety. General practice is under intense resource and workforce pressures, and we desperately need more family doctors practising in the UK, but not through the back door, and not at the expense of the trust and confidence patients have in their GP.”
Joyce Robins, from Patient Concern, is quoted in the report as saying, however: "We do need more GPs, but not at the expense of patient safety. Streamlining is all right proving it is improving the hiring process, but not if they are dumbing down the entry criteria.” She also warned against giving failed GPs too many bites of the apple. Instead, we should be discouraging our brightest young medics from going abroad,” she said.
Earlier this year a survey suggested a six-fold rise in GP vacancies, with one in 8 positions vacant. One in five patients now waits at least a week for an appointment, with record closures of surgeries as rising numbers of GPs retire.
The report says NHS England has restated pledges to recruit at least 2,000 doctors from abroad in the next three years, including 600 to be recruited in the next year. It said the Royal College of GPs and the GMC, will now review the curriculum, training and assessment processes for GPs trained outside the EEA, beginning with Australia, to identify whether the GP registration process for those doctors whose training is seen as equivalent to the UK GP programme can be streamlined. NHS England said doctors will be expected to meet the "highest standards of practice including being able to speak good English".
Dr Arvind Madan, NHS England's director of primary care, said: "Most new GPs will continue to be trained in this country, and general practice will benefit from the 25% increase in medical school places over the coming years. "But the NHS has a proud history of ethically employing international medical professionals, with one in five GPs currently coming from overseas. This scheme will deliver new recruits to help improve services for patients and reduce some of the pressure on hard working GPs across the country."
[link url="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/08/22/revealed-health-chiefs-plan-make-easier-failing-trainees-foreign/?WT.mc_id=e_DM529627&WT.tsrc=email&etype=Edi_FAM_New_AEM_Recipient&utm_source=email&utm_medium=Edi_FAM_New_AEM_Recipient_2017_08_23&utm_campaign=DM529627"]The Daily Telegraph report[/link]