LONDON: Faced with a shortage of doctors and nurses described as “desperate”, Britain’s health officials have launched an international drive to recruit at least 2,000 general practitioners over the next three years – India is among the countries being looked at.
India has long been the source of medical professionals in the National Health Service. The highest number of doctors who gained medical qualifications outside the United Kingdom is from India – 25,342, or 9% currently working in the NHS.
There are several ongoing programmes for medical professionals from India – some of them coordinated by the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (Bapio) – but the latest drive is for general practitioners (GPs), who are at the heart of the NHS.
A spokesperson of NHS England told Hindustan Times on Wednesday that “obviously India has been a very important part of the NHS throughout our history”, but the latest drive will initially look for GPs in the European Union, where GP training meets UK standards.
Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said: “Workload in general practice is escalating – it has risen 16% over the last seven years – yet investment in our service has declined and we are desperately short of GPs and nurses.
“We welcome any GP from the EU or further afield who wants to work in UK general practice – as long as they meet the rigorous standards set by the College and General Medical Council…Indeed, thousands of GPs from overseas already work alongside UK GPs, and we are incredibly grateful for their skills and expertise.”
Health Education England, one of the key health-related bodies in Britain, signed a memorandum of understanding earlier this year with Chennai-based Apollo Hospitals, which includes exchange of clinical staff.
Bapio president Ramesh Mehta said: “The (Theresa May) government is desperate; it promised during elections to recruit extra doctors. Now many GPs are retiring, which adds to the already acute staffing situation.”
Bapio has cautioned Indian doctors not to be lured by promises by locum agencies, and urged them to seek advice on job offers and related aspects about taking up employment in the NHS.
“We don’t want them (Indian doctors) to be treated as second class citizens, or be exploited by locum agencies. India also needs doctors, we don’t want to encourage brain drain,” Mehta said.
Indian doctors have historically trained and worked in Britain, and their work has been much valued but recent years have seen a drop in their numbers moving here and registering with the regulator of the General Medical Council, mainly due to visa restrictions.
However, the restrictions are expected to be relaxed while recruiting new doctors to address the severe staff shortage in the NHS.__Hindustan Times