At present general practice is conducting more consultations than ever each year. The number of patients with multi morbidities is also set to increase, putting those in the profession under greater strain. Combined with the large proportion of the current GP workforce approaching retirement, general practice is facing a workforce crisis. We need to ensure significant investment is directed to general practice to increase the workforce of the profession.


International GP Recruitment Programme

On 22 August 2017, NHS England launched an expansion of its GP international recruitment plan. The College has been working closely with NHSE on this and will continue to partner on with them, amongst other organisations, to make it a reality. This plan intends to improve our chances of meeting the ambitious workforce targets set out in the GP Forward View. It brings new potential to deliver at least 2,000 GPs into or back to the profession, over the next three years. 

It sets out a number of strategies aimed at recruiting doctors from abroad, which will sit alongside approaches to train more doctors in the UK. Patient safety and maintaining standards are central to the new plan. It has been guided by careful consideration of WHO guidelines on ethical recruitment from abroad and a key focus will be attracting UK-trained doctors back to the UK.

The plan includes the following key actions:

  • Accelerating the existing programme for recruitment of EEA doctors.
  • Development of a Framework Agreement of International Recruitment Providers to support recruitment and relocation of GPs. 
  • Encouraging the 4,000 current international medical graduates sitting language tests to apply for GP training places.
  • Setting up a GP International Recruitment Office to run this scaled-up recruitment operation. This office will be run by NHS England and will work with regional and local teams and communities to connect international doctors with local practices.
  • A College review, in conjunction with the GMC, of the medical curricula, examinations and health systems in other countries, beginning with Australia, to identify whether we can streamline processes to reduce the evidence requirements needed to apply to the GP Register. 
  • Identifying ways to make the process of international recruitment more attractive and easier for doctors, while maintaining high standards. For example, by increasing the amount of activity that can be done in the source country, eg applications, completing assessments, initial orientation.

The full details of the plan can be found on NHS England's website

GP workforce 10 point plan

In England as part of the GP workforce 10 point plan, launched in partnership with the RCGP, BMA, HEE and NHS England, the College is campaigning to make sure general practice is as attractive as possible for the next generation of doctors.

As part of the 10 point plan the College has been incentivising young doctors to become GPs in areas of greatest recruitment need by offering a further year of training in a related clinical specialty of interest, such as paediatrics, psychiatry, dermatology, emergency medicine and public health.

Initiatives have also included a new scheme to encourage GPs with young families who may be considering a career break, to retain a part-time working commitment. The scheme will support GP practices to offer GPs the opportunity to work with a modified workload and support. There will also be a wider review of existing ‘retainer’ schemes.

The College has collaborated with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society to produce a clinical pharmacist in practice programme, where the pharmacist forms part of the multi-disciplinary practice team. These pharmacists will support patients to self-manage their well-being and long term conditions, through optimising medicines, and enabling improved medicine related communication between general practice, hospital and community pharmacy. 

The College has also invested in a new ‘returner’ scheme, which will fund induction and support packages for GPs returning from a career break or working abroad to ensure they are ready to return to practice.


In Wales an estimated one third of the adult population have at least one chronic condition. In order to help deal with this impact the Government must increase recruitment to general practice in wales, retain current GPs by enhancing working conditions and encourage those returning to general practice.

In their Strengthening General Practice document RCGP Wales is calling for more support for the Wales Deanery and medical schools to increase foundation posts, as well as increased efforts to retain Welsh medical graduates. RCCP Wales recommends financial incentives be targeted at areas where recruitment problems are most acute and condition upon a reasonable length of time in post.


Scotland is also facing a workforce shortage, with one in five GPs in Scotland being aged over 55, and therefore likely to retire in the next 5 years.

RCGP Scotland’s A blueprint for Scottish general practice recommends that the Scottish Government should work with RCGP and NHS Education for Scotland to ensure progress to expand the GP workforce is made. Like the other nations, RCGP Scotland will also focus on attracting new doctors to the profession, as well as developing returner and retainer schemes. 

Northern Ireland

 In Northern Ireland, one of the biggest challenges facing Northern Ireland Government over the next few years will be to achieve a significant increase in the number of GPs.

In order to meet this target, in their Delivering Change for general practice document, RCGP Northern Ireland is calling for improved recruitment, retention and exposure to general practice, as well as encouraging returners to the profession.

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