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Last Updated: 2001-08-20 9:25:20 EDT (Reuters Health)
LONDON (Reuters Health) – The UK government is to launch a world-wide advertising campaign to encourage foreign doctors to take up vacant posts in the country's National Health Service (NHS).
The advertising campaign, which will begin in September and last for 1 month, will target doctors in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the Middle East. Ads will also be placed in seven European countries, namely Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Holland, Sweden and Switzerland.
The UK government pledged last year to increase the number of consultants working in NHS hospitals by 7,500 and the number of general practitioners by 2,000 by 2004. However, a lack of training places in the UK has forced ministers to look overseas for staff.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said the campaign would run in countries where there is a surplus of doctors. "The biggest constraint the NHS faces today is no longer a shortage of financial resources, it is a shortage of human resources," the spokeswoman said in a statement.
"We have promised an additional 7,500 consultants by 2004 to help ensure that patients get the fast, efficient treatment they deserve," she continued. "To help us deliver this, as stated in the NHS Plan, we will recruit from other developed nations where there are a surplus of trained doctors."
The decision to advertise abroad is also believed to be part of efforts to reverse the decline in doctors coming to work in the UK in recent years.
Figures from the General Medical Council show the number of foreign doctors who were allowed to practise in the UK in 2000 was just 8,703. The number has have fallen steadily since 1997 when more than 10,400 overseas doctors were registered to practise.
The British Medical Association welcomed the move saying the UK had fewer doctors per head of population than almost any other European country. But it warned that overseas doctors would not take up NHS posts unless the government improved the working conditions of staff.
"We need help in the short and medium term in order to offer our patients the speed of access to healthcare and the time with their doctor, that they need. We support the drive to attract doctors from countries which have a surplus," Dr. George Rae, of the BMA's general practitioner committee, said in a statement.
"Many of our European colleagues find the pace at which we work quite mind boggling," Dr. Rae added. "And if we are recruiting at all levels, including doctors in training, we must offer our colleagues a worthwhile career structure and the right induction and support to enable them to succeed."
"These recruitment efforts, must, of course go hand in hand with determined efforts to maintain the recruitment and retention of UK doctors. New modern contracts for both GPs and consultants and attractive incentives to keep UK doctors in practice, are a vital part of the picture."
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