Almost half of NHS doctors are now trained overseas

  • The General Medical Council said the demand for GPs is far outstripping supply
  • As a result, the UK is becoming increasingly reliant on foreign-trained doctors 
  • Some 43% of hospital doctors and GPs in East Anglia qualified overseas  

More than 40 per cent of doctors in some areas of England trained abroad, a report shows.

The General Medical Council said the profession had hit ‘crunch point’ with demand for doctors far outstripping supply.

As a result, the UK is becoming increasingly reliant on foreign-trained doctors particularly from Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy.

Some 43 per cent of hospital doctors and GPs in East Anglia qualified overseas and the proportion is 41 per cent in the West Midlands.

This falls to 38 per cent in the East Midlands, 36 per cent in London and 18 per cent in the South West. The national average is 34 per cent.

The General Medical Council said the profession had hit 'crunch point' with demand for doctors far outstripping supply

The General Medical Council said the profession had hit ‘crunch point’ with demand for doctors far outstripping supply

The GMC’s report says the number of new doctors – either from the UK or abroad – rose by just 2 per cent since 2012.

Over the same time period there has been a 27 per cent increase in the number of patients arriving in A&E.

Burn out 

The report also highlights how increasing numbers of junior doctors are taking a career break midway through training. 

Some feel ‘burnt out’ or want a better work-life balance while others travel abroad to get experience of working in other countries.

Figures show that 54 per cent of junior doctors took a break after their two years of foundation training in 2016 up from 30 per cent in 2012.

This means there are fewer doctors progressing up through the ranks and some of those who take a break never come back.

Crunch point 

Charlie Massey, chief executive of the GMC, said: ‘We have reached a crucial moment – a crunch point – in the development of the UK’s medical workforce.

‘The decisions that we make over the next five years will determine whether it can meet these extra demands.

‘Each country (in the UK) needs to think carefully about how many doctors are needed, what expertise we need them to have so they can work as flexibly as possible, and where they should be located given the changes and movement in population expected.

‘We are a professional regulator, not a workforce planning body, but we want to be an active partner in helping each country of the UK to address these priorities.


Doctors who qualified in Bangladesh are 13 times more likely to be incompetent, shocking figures showed in April.

Often unable to communicate fluently with patients in British, this can negatively impact their medical ability.

While poor training in countries with lower standards and cultural barriers could also be to blame, experts warn.

The findings back-up the need for a standard testing procedure for all doctors before they begin to practice on patients.

Around one in three GPs are from abroad, with a majority having learnt the ropes in Europe, The Times reported at the time.

Reliant on foreign doctors, the NHS has actively targeted them to help plug a staffing shortage that has left it in a crisis.

University College London researchers also found Egyptian and Nigerian-born GPs face an eight-fold higher risk of being investigated for their actions. 

Almost 6,000 foreign doctors were hired in the UK last year, despite the ongoing concerns of language barriers.

But last year, foreign-trained medics made up 72 per cent of those who were struck off. 

‘The underlying challenge for all in healthcare is how we retain the good doctors we have right now.

‘Everything we hear from the profession tells us that we need to value them more; nurture cultures that are safe and supportive, and do what we can to help staff achieve the right balance between their professional and personal lives through more flexible working arrangements.’ 

The proportion of foreign-trained doctors has risen slightly compared to last year from 33.8 per cent to 34.1 per cent.

Almost three quarters are from outside Europe. Recently, however, increasing numbers of doctors have arrived from EU states which have been hit by economic recession.

Most common countries 

The most common countries of origin have historically been India, Pakistan and South Africa but they are increasingly arriving from Spain, Portugal, Greece and Italy.

The GMC is particularly worried that doctors across the board are becoming ‘over-burdened’ and working at levels which are ‘not sustainable.’

This is affecting the ‘quality and safety of care’ and putting patients at risk, it adds,

Furthermore, the high pressured working environment may be putting promising graduates off from choosing a career as a doctor.

The report says that doctors should be given more support to make their working lives easier.

Professor Jane Dacre, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said: ‘We share the report’s concern about the low numbers of doctors in some specialties.

‘The fact that our population is ageing rapidly, with individuals often having many complex diseases, there needs to be incentives to encourage many more of our physicians into these specialties.’  

Health | Mail Online