Visa sponsorship for GPs on the International Induction and Return to Practice Programmes
Frequently asked questions:
1. What is the International Induction Programme?
The International Induction Programme (IIP) is funded by NHS England and Improvement (NHSEI) and managed by Health Education England (HEE). It is designed to offer a supported pathway for overseas qualified GPs to be inducted safely into NHS General Practice and is for GPs who have never previously worked in NHS General Practice in the UK.
2. What is the Return to Practice Programme?
The NHS GP Return to Practice (RtP) programme provides a safe, supported pathway for qualified GPs to return to NHS General Practice after a period of absence. It is designed for GPs who have previous NHS experience, and would like to return to work in general practice after a career break, raising a family or time spent abroad. Applicants are predominately UK nationals, however the scheme is open to non-UK nationals who have previously worked or trained in the UK.
3. Why do we need practices to act as visa sponsors for the GPs on the schemes?
The schemes operate by providing GPs with a period of supervision of up to six months to support their induction into the workforce. This is usually undertaken as a voluntary placement for the majority of applicants with no requirement for the GP to have an employment contract. This is not always an option for international GPs as they often require a visa to live and work in the UK.
GPs who do not already have rights of residence in the UK have always required visa sponsorship to undertake the schemes. Following the UK’s exit from European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA) nationals now also require visa sponsorship to work in the UK. This means that there has been a growth in the number of GPs from overseas now requiring visa sponsorship.
To keep the schemes open to international GPs and help increase the number of GPs working in primary care in England, we urgently require more practices to act as employers and sponsors.
4. What countries will the GPs be moving from?
The majority of applicants will either be from European countries or English-speaking countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa or the United States.
5. What are the entry requirements for GPs applying to join the schemes?
International GPs applying to join the schemes must either hold a GP training qualification that is recognised by the General Medical Council (GMC) or obtain a Certificate of Eligibility for GP Registration (CEGPR) from the GMC after submitting a portfolio of evidence to demonstrate that that their training meets UK standards. In addition, where English is not their first language, they must hold an English Language qualification that is recognised by the GMC.
GPs applying to join the schemes must also complete a HEE Learning Needs Assessment. This involves an interview with a HEE specialist to assess the GP’s educational needs and suitability for the schemes. This is then followed by formal assessments for GPs that have not obtained a CEGPR from the GMC.
6. How does my practice become a visa sponsor?
The process of becoming a visa sponsor is much more straightforward than many fear. Employers must apply to the UK Visa Service for a sponsorship licence. This will involve a fee. NHSEI publishes a range of guidance to assist practices with the process of becoming a sponsor, including a step-by-step guide. NHSEI also regularly hosts online webinars for practice staff on the process. While the process is quite straightforward, it can take several weeks for processing, so it is important to start the process promptly on identifying the need for a sponsorship licence.
7. What requirements does my practice have to meet to employ and sponsor a GP on the schemes?
Practices must be able to offer GPs on the schemes a supportive learning environment. HEE will work with your practice to support you in this role, including offering clinical supervision training to other GPs at the practice where required. GPs on the scheme will also be supported by a HEE Educational Supervisor as part of the programme, and may be able to undertake some or all of their supervision within a HEE Training Practice. This will be agreed as part of your discussions with HEE. In addition, there will be a requirement to use the online UK Visa Service system to confirm the GP’s attendance at work and report any absences.
8. What funding is available to practices that employ and sponsor a GP on the schemes?
NHSEI will reimburse the practice for the costs of the GP’s salary plus on-costs and any pension fees whilst they are on the schemes. Once the GP completes the scheme, the practice will then become responsible for the GP’s salary. Your NHSEI regional team will provide you with guidance on how to reclaim the salary costs. In addition, HEE will pay your practice a monthly supervision fee whilst the GP is on the scheme.
Your HEE regional team will advise you on the process for claiming this. In addition, there is a package of financial support available to the GP including help with registration fees and reimbursement of visa costs.
9. What type of employment contract should be used to employ a GP on the schemes?
GPs will need to be employed under a minimum six-month contract of employment usually on a full-time basis. We are keen to hear from practices that have long-term GP vacancies that would be interested in employing a GP on a longer-term basis after they complete the scheme.
We recommend that the practices employ GPs using a standard BMA contract for GPs but include a probationary period linked to the successful completion of the scheme. This minimises any risks or employment liabilities to the practice in the event that the GP fails to complete the scheme. 10. Will the practice have an opportunity to interview the GP? Yes, in fact we recommend that you arrange either an informal or formal interview with the GP before making any commitments. This interview should be used to assess the GP against your standard recruitment criteria and help ensure that the GP is a good fit for your practice.
11. What are the benefits to my practice of employing and sponsoring a GP on the schemes?
By agreeing to employ and sponsor a GP on the scheme, you will be provided with the opportunity to employ and sponsor a fully qualified GP who can immediately undertake sessions in your practice with educational support provided by HEE. For the duration of the scheme, there will be no financial costs to the practice as NHSEI will reimburse all salary and on-costs. Once the GP completes the scheme, the practice then has the option of offering longer term employment to the GP which will help with any workforce pressures that the practice may be facing. In addition, by obtaining a visa sponsorship licence, you will also have the opportunity to recruit one of the thousands of international doctors that complete GP training in the UK every year.
12. Where can I obtain further information?
Please contact your NHSEI regional team and/or our national support team via email@example.com if you would like to discuss becoming a sponsoring practice for GPs on the schemes or if you have any questions about what is involved