NHS in Australian doctor recruitment drive with £18,500 ‘golden handshakes’

The NHS is seeking to recruit hundreds of Australian GPs to plug a shortage of family doctors — with the lure of £18,500 “golden handshakes”.

NHS England is to target British GPs who relocated Down Under and want to come home, as well as Aussie doctors who want to live in the UK.

The initiative, part of a plan to recruit 2,000 foreign GPs by 2020/21, follows the success of London Ambulance Service’s international recruitment.

More than 500 LAS paramedics have been hired from Australia and New Zealand since 2014 — making up more than a tenth of the workforce.

Today’s initiative comes after GP vacancy rates were reported to be the highest on record. More than 1,000 GPs have left the NHS since 2015, citing “unmanageable” workloads and increased demands from a growing and increasingly sick patient population.

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Unlike the LAS system, NHS England will not send officials to Australia but has appointed two recruitment agencies to find candidates. Securing visas for non-European medics has been made easier after the Government this summer lifted the “tier 2” cap on recruitment of workers from outside the European Economic Area. 

Dominic Hardy, NHS England’s director of primary care delivery, said: “It’s no secret the NHS needs to recruit more GPs, so it makes sense to head to Australia where doctors’ skills, training and high levels of care closely match those of their British counterparts.”

NHS England has already attracted applications from 1,200 GPs in Europe. Of these, 370 doctors are being  screened or are in the early stages of recruitment.

GPs moving from overseas are offered an “enhanced relocation package” worth up to £18,500. NHS England  also covers visa costs and helps place the doctors at surgeries across the country.

Potential Aussie GPs could also see the application procedure cut from a year to about three months. Details of the streamlined recruitment plan were released today at the Royal College of GPs’ annual conference in Glasgow.


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