The NHS will pay agencies up to £100 million to recruit GPs from abroad in a bid to increase staffing numbers.
International recruitment is hoped to begin in the autumn, a contract notice posted by NHS England said, with between 2-3,000 doctors anticipated to come from overseas.
It comes as part of a drive to increase the number of family doctors after leading medics raised concerns about increasing workloads and a dwindling workforce.
Overall, health officials aim to increase the number of GPs by 5,000 by 2020.
Initially, plans had been put in place to recruit just 500 doctors from abroad by 2020/21, but this was expanded last week.
A GP international recruitment office has been launched to run the scaled-up programme operation, with the aim of bridging the “gap between the number of doctors practices want, and the numbers they are successfully recruiting and retaining”, NHS England said.
The recruitment agencies will identify, screen and interview potential candidates, as well as provide relocation services.
The estimated value of the three-year contract is £100 million, and NHS England will have the opportunity to extend it for a maximum of a year if desired.
Dr Arvind Madan, GP and NHS England director of primary care, said last week: “Most new GPs will continue to be trained in this country, and general practice will benefit from the 25% increase in medical school places over the coming years.
“But the NHS has a proud history of ethically employing international medical professionals, with one in five GPs currently coming from overseas. This scheme will deliver new recruits to help improve services for patients and reduce some of the pressure on hard working GPs across the country.”
Responding to the announcement last week, Susan Goldsmith, deputy chief executive of the General Medical Council, said: “We all recognise the pressures faced by the GP workforce at present, and we support the idea of accelerating the recruitment of additional doctors to help ease the situation.”
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