More than 400 trainee GPs could be kicked out of England when they qualify because the NHS cannot sponsor them to stay in the country, it has been reported.
Although NHS England had expected to sponsor non-European training doctors itself, negotiations with the Home Office mean it is ‘unlikely’ to be able to.
The health service is now appealing for the help of private practices which are able to sponsor newly-qualified GPs to stay in the country when their visas run out.
An expert has pointed out the ‘bizarre’ move by the Government at a time when the NHS is under extreme pressure and struggling to recruit family doctors.
And the revelation comes just a month after the UK Government announced it would stop limiting the number of visas given to doctors from overseas.
GPs from outside Europe who are training in England may not be able to stay once their visa runs out unless they can find private sponsorship, according to news website Pulse
There are over 400 training GPs from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) who are expecting to qualify in this country at the end of July, according to Pulse.
But there may be no guarantee of their being able to stay in the UK once their visas expire, because the NHS cannot agree terms with the Government.
According to an email seen by the medical news website, NHS officials say it is ‘unlikely’ the health service will be able to sponsor the new doctors to remain.
The message was sent to Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust from the Surrey Health Education Network.
FOUR IN 10 GPS QUIT WITHIN FIVE YEARS
Four in ten GPs quit the NHS within five years of finishing their training.
Many switch to short-term locum (temporary) work on much higher pay and better hours. Others practise abroad or leave the profession entirely.
Each will have cost taxpayers around £500,000 to train over ten years.
The recruitment crisis has led Home Secretary Sajid Javid to relax visa rules to allow more foreign doctors into Britain.
Ministers have pledged to hire an extra 5,000 GPs by 2020 to ensure patients have better access to appointments, particularly at weekends.
But figures published last month showed the NHS had lost 1,300 GPs in two years. Numbers fell from 34,914 in March 2016 to 33,574 this March.
Ian Cumming, head of the NHS’s staffing body said: ‘It is like a bath with water coming in from a tap at one end and out a plug at the other end. We need to make sure that we reduce the outflow of water.’
It said the NHS is ‘urgently’ looking for GP practices that could sponsor foreign doctors to stay in the country.
It costs approximately £500,000 to train a GP over ten years.
‘It is bizarre that Government policy is making it harder to recruit GPs’
A spokesman for the British Medical Association’s GP Committee, Dr Krishna Kasaraneni told Pulse: ‘At a time when we need to do all we can to recruit more GPs, it’s bizarre the Government’s own policies are hampering this.
‘NHS England and the Home Office must sort this issue as quickly as possible or more practices will struggle to maintain their services to their patients.’
The Surrey Health Education Network’s email said: ‘Due to the complexity of these discussions [with the Home Office], NHS England is unlikely to be able to offer visa sponsorship to the 400+ non-EEA nationals who are due to complete their GP training at the end of the month.
NHS is ‘urgently’ looking for GP practices to sponsor new GPs
‘Therefore they are hoping to urgently identify any practices that currently hold a sponsorship licence so that they can be matched up with any newly qualified non-EEA GPs that wish to remain in England.’
In a response to Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s plan to lift a migration cap on foreign medics, the Royal College of GPs last month wrote him a letter.
The organisation said it was concerned doctors from overseas were being put off or turned away by the Government’s immigration policy.
More than 1,500 docs with job offers had visa applications rejected
The British Medical Journal reported that between December 2017 and March 2018 more than 1,500 visa applications from doctors with job offers in the UK were refused as a result of the cap on workers from outside the European Economic Area.
Sunder Katwala, director of the immigration think-tank British Future, said removing medical personnel from the visa cap would be a ‘sensible move’.
He said: ‘It never made sense to turn away doctors and nurses that the NHS needs. It also frees up visa places for other employers who need high-skilled staff to fill vacancies.’