RCGP Chair calls for help for overseas GP trainees to stay in the NHS

In a letter to the Guardian, College Chair Professor Kamila Hawthorne lays out how overseas GPs are penalised by the visa process and calls on all political parties to commit to change this in the upcoming General Election.

We have a chronic shortage of GPs. With demand for our services growing and our workforce shrinking, we are more reliant on doctors from overseas, who make up 46% of our GP trainees, than ever (a record one in five NHS staff in England are non-UK nationals, figures show, 12 February).

The UK needs to train more doctors, but we must also ensure that our colleagues who come to the UK to train and work in our health service are supported, valued and encouraged to stay so that our patients receive the care they need and deserve.

Currently, GP trainees from overseas are not given the opportunity to apply for permanent residence on qualifying, unlike their peers in other medical specialties, because specialty GP training lasts only three years.

The Home Office recently introduced a four-month extension on completion of training to give them more time to find appropriate sponsorship, but they must still jump through hoops to be allowed to stay and work in the NHS. Not only is this stressful for them, but it is nonsensical, given the investment the UK has put into their training, only to risk losing them.

With a general election on the horizon, all political parties should be looking to allow these excellent GPs we so clearly need to apply for indefinite leave to remain on completion of their training.

Further information

RCGP press office: 0203 188 7659

Notes to editors

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 54,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.