WITH local GP services at breaking point, a local doctor has hit out at the systemic restrictions putting GPs off coming home to practise.
In recent years the situation with GP cover in rural parts of the county has become increasingly precarious, with doctors retiring and resigning but no doctors available to replace them. However, there are many younger doctors now working on the other side of the world who would like to return home but are being put off by the system itself.
Currently, even if a GP is from here and trained here, if they have been out of the UK for more than two years they face a series of hurdles – such as sitting exams and taking part in a refresher scheme – if they want to return to practise here. Even if they have been working one of the best healthcare systems in the world.
Fermanagh GP Dr Brendan O’Hare from Western Rural Healthcare, recently visited Australia where he met with a number of young, UK trained doctor who made it clear to him these restrictions were the reason they were not returning home.
“These aren’t foreign trained GPs where English is a second language, there are UK born, UK trained GPs. They are members of the Royal College of Practitioners here in the UK,” said Dr O’Hare.
“They have gone out to Australia where they are working as GPs, in a system that unlike ours is not broken, and they practise a much higher standard of medicine than we are able to.
“Those of them who are contemplating coming home, if they have stayed more than two years, they have to go through a series of hoops to be allowed back on to our registers, which is a serious deterrent.”
Dr O’Hare knows the issues facing rural practice better than anyone, having set up Western Rural Healthcare after Ederney GP surgery came under threat in 2016, along with a consortium of local doctors. The practice is now one of the biggest in the North, taking in Ederney, Castlederg and Newtownstewart. Dr O’Hare also stepped to provide cover in Roslea following the retirement of Dr Donal Collins, before it was closed in 2016.
Dr O’Hare said the current restrictions were seen by the young doctors as “a very significant barrier to returning to their own country, in which they were trained, to practise medicine.”
“These are people who are actively practising high quality general practice in Australia,” he said.
“Our service, as we’re discovering, is on its knees. Instead of treating these people like pariahs, we should welcome them back and ease their passage back in.
“It beggars belief to me that we’re making them jump through these hoops. We are literally beggars in this situation, we aren’t choosers.”
Dr O’Hare noted that it was prudent to ensure those being readmitted to our health service were competent, but said there were currently facing “a blanket judgement” that was putting them off.
“If they are fully trained, have done their membership of the Royal College of General Practitioners here, and are actively practising in healthcare systems either similar or, in most cases, superior to our own, they should come back with an absolute minimum of hindrance,” he said.
“Genuinely, those who were there for more than two years, many of them said they simply weren’t prepared to go through the hoops that are being enforced on them.”
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