Newly qualified foreign GPs are being threatened ‘with deportation’


Newly qualified foreign GPs are being threatened ‘with deportation’ by the Home Office after taxpayers spend £50,000 a year training them, MPs are told

  • Taxpayers are spending £50,000 a year training each of the family doctors
  • But foreign doctors qualifying in the UK are receiving deportation letters
  • Comes as patients face long A&E queues due to lack of GP appointments 

Newly qualified foreign GPs are being driven out of the NHS because the Home Office is threatening to deport them, MPs have been told.

Taxpayers are spending £50,000 a year training each of the family doctors amid a major shortage – only to lose them to other countries, health leaders claim.

Dr Margaret Ikpoh, of the Royal College of GPs, told the Commons health and social care committee that some doctors were ‘literally going from celebrating the fact that they’ve become a GP, to receiving letters threatening them with deportation’.

The NHS in England has lost the equivalent of around 2,000 full-time GPs since 2015, which is making it harder for patients to secure an appointment. The RCGP is calling for international medical graduates who qualify as GPs in the UK to be given automatic indefinite leave to remain to stem the crisis.

Sir Robert Francis QC, chairman of Healthwatch England, told MPs that over half the complaints the watchdog received about GPs were concerned with access. He added: ‘Patients… certainly find it difficult to have a face-to-face appointment with a GP.’

He warned that patients were turning up at overcrowded A&Es after finding it impossible to get through to their GP surgery or NHS 111 service.

Taxpayers are spending £50,000 a year training each of the family doctors amid a major shortage – only to lose them to other countries, health leaders claim (stock pic)

Taxpayers are spending £50,000 a year training each of the family doctors amid a major shortage – only to lose them to other countries, health leaders claim (stock pic)

Sir Robert said they were being ‘kept on the phone forever’, adding: ‘It is undoubtedly one of the things that leads to people going to A&E, which as we know is the wrong place for almost all such people.’ Almost half of doctors starting GP training in 2021/22 were international medical graduates, but Dr Ikpoh, vice chairman of professional development at the RCGP, said they faced a ‘major financial barrier’ to keep their visa status.

She added: ‘I am contacted on a regular basis by trainees who, despite the fact that we’ve spent £50,000 a year training them up – perhaps in areas of deprivation, at the end of their training they are literally going from celebrating the fact that they have become a GP to receiving letters threatening them with deportation.

‘That can’t be right and it has to change. We have to value them better, because if we don’t we will lose them.

‘They are already going to places where they feel more valued. Canada is top of their list. It’s an easy win for us all and we have to sort it.’

Home Office rules state foreign doctors must work under the skilled worker visa scheme for at least five years before they can apply for indefinite leave to remain and this timeframe covers most specialist medical training.

But GPs usually gain their certificate of completion of training after three years, leaving a two-year gap during which they have to secure sponsorship if they want to stay in the country when their visas run out.

Sir Robert Francis QC, chairman of Healthwatch England, warned that patients were turning up at overcrowded A&Es after finding it impossible to get through to their GP surgery or NHS 111 service (file pic)

Sir Robert Francis QC, chairman of Healthwatch England, warned that patients were turning up at overcrowded A&Es after finding it impossible to get through to their GP surgery or NHS 111 service (file pic)

Health Education England, which helps to train the health sector workforce, told Pulse magazine there were about 1,000 trainee GPs on visas which will expire by March 2023.

NHS England had expected to be allowed to sponsor the doctors during the two-year period but could not reach an agreement with the Home Office. The Home Office said it was working with the Department of Health and Social Care to try to increase the number of GP practices with licences to sponsor newly qualified trainees.

A Government spokesman accused the RCGP of ‘needless scaremongering’ for using the word ‘deportation’. They said the term is used for foreign national offenders and those whose leave expires could instead face ‘removal’.

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