Health Minister Robin Swann is taking action to streamline the processes for GPs qualified in the Republic of Ireland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa to take up roles in Northern Ireland.
Under current rules, GPs who have trained outside the UK, or who have not practised in the UK in the past two years, are required to undertake an initial knowledge assessment exam as part of the GP Induction and Refresher Scheme before they can practise in Northern Ireland.
Under the new process being brought forward by the Health Minister, GPs who qualified in the Republic of Ireland in the last two years will be exempt from sitting the exam.
The Minister said: “The similarities between GP training in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are well recognised. Amending the Scheme so that doctors who have completed training in the Republic of Ireland will not be required to sit the knowledge test (MCQ) if they have successfully completed the Irish College of General Practitioners examination within the last two years is a pragmatic step which removes an unnecessary barrier to qualified GPs practising in Northern Ireland.”
In addition, the Minister confirmed that Northern Ireland will be participating in a new UK-wide scheme where GPs who have trained in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa are able to use a streamlined process known as the Certificate of Eligibility for GP Registration (CEGPR SP) if certain conditions around their training and professional experience have been met. The new scheme will make it easier for GPs who have practised in these countries to work in Northern Ireland, potentially making it easier for doctors who left Northern Ireland to pursue their professional development abroad to now return home.
These further steps to support GP recruitment and retention follow the Minister’s recent announcement of a £5.5m package of measures to help with the pressures facing Primary Care services across Northern Ireland.
Minister Swann added: “I am acutely aware of the need to help address pressures in General Practice and I am delighted to be able to announce this further opportunity to strengthen our GP workforce by simplifying the process for GPs qualified in the Republic of Ireland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa to take up roles in Northern Ireland to support the recruitment and retention of GPs. My Department continues to work closely with GP representatives to consider how best to respond to the challenges facing General Practice.”
Notes to editors:
1. To practise as a GP in Northern Ireland, doctors are required to be registered on the General Medical Council GP Register, hold a licence to practise and be on the NI Primary Medical Performers List. This is to ensure that GPs working in NI have the appropriate knowledge and skills to work safely.
2. Entry to the Performers List is automatic following successful completion of training as a GP in NI. GPs trained in the rest of the UK may apply to the performers list and if application is successful will not be required to complete an induction scheme. If training is completed outside the UK, or if a GP has not practised in the UK for more than two years, the GP is required to undergo the GP Induction and Refresher (I&R) Components of the GP Development Scheme.
3. The GP Induction and Refresher Scheme already allows for GPs qualified in the ROI to access entry to the NI Performer’s List. The change announced to remove the requirement for GPs who qualified in the Republic of Ireland in the last two years to sit the MCQ test prior to practice placement recognises that GP training in Ireland closely mirrors that in the UK.
4. The Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) and the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) have worked closely together on the development of the training course meaning that trainees finishing in ROI over recent years have gained a similar qualification.
5. The I&R scheme application process includes an initial knowledge assessment (MCQ) exam before the inductee is placed in a GP practice for those who have trained as a GP outside the UK. The nature and length of placements will be dependent on the educational needs of the individual. At this stage of the scheme the applicant is conditionally included in the Performers List. Successful completion of the practice placement leads to full inclusion. This streamlined process will allow eligible GPs from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa to bypass the initial knowledge assessment if the GMC have assessed their application and found them to meet the necessary criteria.
6. The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) report that an in-depth mapping study of curricula undertaken by the University of Exeter has shown the health care context, training and assessments in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa are close to the UK GP training programme. They advise that the amount of evidence required for this type of CEGPR application is therefore significantly reduced, and those who have trained and qualified as a General Practitioner in any of these countries may be eligible to apply for a CEGPR via the streamlined process.
7. In September, Minister Swann announced a £5.5m package to strengthen GP practices through the winter period, help recruit GPs in traditionally difficult to recruit areas and provide additional funding to the GP Crisis and Improvement team that provides support to practices experiencing difficulty.
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