Headlines: August 21st, 2001

The British Medical Association has given its backing for the Government’s drive to recruit doctors from overseas.The move will ease the short to long term shortage of both GPs and consultants, which is essential if the NHS Plan – with its proposals to increase doctor numbers – is to be delivered in full.

The BMA says it approves of recruitment from countries where there is no similar shortage, saying that the United Kingdom has fewer doctors per head of population than almost any other country in the OECD.

However the BMA says there are practical difficulties to be overcome beyond a thorough induction programme – it says that doctors will be hard to recruit from European countries unless working conditions in the UK improve.

Doctors in the EU enjoy much less onerous workloads than UK doctors and may be deterred by stressful working conditions in the NHS. However senior BMA commentator Dr George Rae said it was better to have European doctors working over here, than to send our patients to Europe for treatment.

The BMA sees the overseas recruitment campaign as another sign that GPs will be successful in being offered a modernised contract. With problems in recruitment, it becomes all the more important to keep the doctors already in practice, many of whom have recently threatened to resign if a contract offer from the Government is not forthcoming soon.