NHS expands overseas GP recruitment drive despite slow progress so far

Authors: Abi Rimmer 

Publication date:  22 八月 2017

NHS England has expanded its international programme to recruit GPs from overseas, despite the scheme recruiting only 38 doctors since last year.

On Tuesday 22 August NHS England announced that it was intending to recruit 601 overseas doctors into general practice in 2017-18 and at least 2000 doctors over the next three years.[1]

The initial target for the programme, set out in April 2016 in the General Practice Forward View, was to recruit 500 GPs by 2020-21.[2]

Figures from NHS England, shared with The BMJ last month, showed that the programme had recruited only 28 GPs to Lincolnshire and 10 GPs to Essex, the first two pilot areas.[3]

NHS England’s announcement came as new data from NHS Digital showed that the number of full time equivalent GPs in England rose by just 1% between March 2017 and June 2017 and actually fell 3.7% between March 2016 and March 2017,[4] despite the ongoing push to boost numbers.

NHS England said that to recruit more doctors from overseas it was working with a further 11 areas to expand the international recruitment programme: Humber Coast and Vale; North East; Middleton, Heywood and Rochdale; Staffordshire; Mid Nottinghamshire (Mansfield and Newark); Cambridgeshire and Peterborough; Norfolk and Suffolk; Birmingham and Solihull; Kent and Medway; South East London; and North East London.

The programme will initially focus on recruiting doctors from the European Economic Area. These doctors’ training is recognised in the UK under European law, and they would be able to join the General Medical Council’s GP register automatically.

NHS England has published an advertisement in the Official Journal of the European Union and the Contracts Finder database, inviting expressions of interest from companies that would support the recruitment of overseas doctors.

These companies will be tasked with identifying at least 2000 doctors working abroad would could come and work as GPs in England, NHS England said.[3] This will include targeted marketing and relocation packages to attract doctors to England.

For the recruitment of GPs from outside the European Economic Area the Royal College of General Practitioners will work with the GMC to review the curriculums, training, and assessment processes for these doctors, starting with GPs from Australia. The college and GMC will ascertain whether they can streamline the GP registration process for doctors whose training is seen as equivalent to the UK GP programme.

NHS England has also announced the establishment of a GP International Recruitment Office to organise and run the recruitment programme.

Commenting on the announcement, Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said that the college welcomed GPs from abroad who wanted to work in UK general practice, “as long as they meet the rigorous standards set by the college, General Medical Council, and others to ensure safe clinical practice—to contribute to delivering care to over one million patients every day.”

She added, “NHS England’s GP Forward View has always included introducing 500 appropriately trained and qualified GPs from overseas into our GP workforce. If NHS England is confident that there is appetite to extend this scheme further, then we welcome this aspiration and will do all we can to support it to recruit and safely welcome new GPs to the profession.”


  1. NHS England. Royal College of General Practitioners. Expansion of the GP international recruitment programme. Aug 2017. [Link] .
  2. Rimmer A. NHS increases efforts to recruit doctors from overseas. BMJ Careers. Feb 2017. [Link] .
  3. Rimmer A. International recruitment scheme brings 38 GPs to NHS. BMJ  2017;358:j3462. [Link]   [Link] .
  4. NHS Digital. Healthcare workforce statistics, March 2017, experimental. Aug 2017. [Link] .

Abi Rimmer The BMJ


Cite this as BMJ Careers ; doi: