A London hospital is recruiting doctors directly from India to avoid getting into a bidding war over staff that is being driven by the NHS recruitment crisis.
Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow launched an innovative program to fill vacancies for middle-ranking doctors in its emergency department by targeting staff trained in India, which has similar qualification standards to the UK.
The hospital told Sky News the programme, which so far has recruited 10 doctors, made more financial sense than competing against other trusts for staff.
Dr Miriam Harris, the clinical lead in the Northwick Park emergency medicine department, said: “Rather than offering large salaries, which is what we tried to do before and got caught up in a bidding war with all other hospitals in London, we were offering to train people and invest in them and their future.”
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Dr Lajeesh Vettikat, a specialist A&E registrar from New Delhi, said he had been surprised by the pressure on A&E departments.
He told Sky News: “I had read about the A&E sector – now I know how real the shortage is in terms of doctors and nursing staff.
“This is the biggest A&E department in London and we have about 30 doctors a day here, but the number of patients in A&E is so huge we end up seeing patients in the corridors, in the back of ambulances, in the waiting rooms, in the relatives’ rooms.
“It is really worrying but we are working really hard to make sure the patients are safe and the department is safe.”
Northwick Park is also training some nurses to become advanced clinical practitioners, an intermediate qualification that lets them take on some doctors’ duties.
These include prescribing medicines and discharging, which is crucial to freeing up beds and improving the flow of patients through the hospital.
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The measures come as the NHS reveals new figures on Tuesday that will set out the scale of the recruitment crisis facing hospital trusts.
They are expected to show tens of thousands of vacancies for doctors, dentists, nurses and midwives across the country.
The most recent official figures, for the year to March 2016, showed almost 80,000 vacancies across the NHS. The Royal College of Nursing estimates there are about 24,000 unfilled nursing posts and thousands of vacancies for doctors.
Following Freedom of Information requests, several hospital trusts have admitted to having more than 1,000 vacancies across their services, raising concerns over patient safety.
The Department of Health says 5,000 new doctors will have qualified by 2020 but last week Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said hospitals would have to hire about 2,000 more doctors from overseas to alleviate staffing pressures.
That process may be complicated by Brexit, which has raised uncertainties for EU citizens working or considering working in the UK.