Ambulance bosses stand by GPs

AMBULANCE bosses have defended the use of foreign GPs after being criticised for paying them to fly in from other counties due to a shortage of doctors in the region.

AMBULANCE bosses have defended the use of foreign GPs after being criticised for paying them to fly in from other counties due to a shortage of doctors in the region.

The East of England Ambulance Service employs two Italian and three German GPs for five shifts a month on average and it is believed the stand-ins can earn up to �100 an hour.

The Royal College of GPs and the General Medical Council called for a “radical review” of out-of-hours care so that the NHS no longer has to rely on help from abroad.

It comes after the Daily Mail newspaper revealed a third of primary care trusts are flying GPs from as far away as Lithuania, Poland, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Switzerland because of a shortage of doctors in Britain willing to work in the evenings and at weekends - with concerns that sometimes training is not adequate.

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However ambulance bosses, whose services are commissioned by NHS Norfolk to provide the GP out of hours service in Norfolk, said the doctors only work “a few shifts a month”.

A spokeswoman said: “We rely chiefly on a committed workforce of GPs living and working in Norfolk and north Suffolk. Through an agency we employ two Italian and three German GPs.

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“All of these have been coming to us for a long time; they do not work for us all of the time, but fill an average of four or five shifts a month.

“Every doctor joining our scheme undertakes a full induction programme whatever their circumstances. We conduct full checks on their professional qualifications and clinical ability.

“While working for us we undertake a regular audit of their clinical work. All out of hours clinicians have access to senior clinical advice at all times.”

The figures come months after an investigation was launched into the conduct of a German doctor after two patients died on his first shift in Britain.

Daniel Ubani had just three hours sleep after travelling from Germany before he went on duty in Cambridgeshire. The Nigerian-born doctor injected 70-year-old kidney patient David Gray with 10 times the maximum recommended dose of morphine, and an 86-year-old woman died of a heart attack after Ubani failed to send her to hospital.

The NHS relies on doctors from overseas because a contract for British GPs has resulted in more than 90pc opting out of responsibility for their patients in the evenings and at weekends.

The investigation revealed that more than a third of the 152 primary care trusts (PCTs) in England have flown in foreign GPs in the last year. Of the 146 trusts who responded, 51 have used overseas GPs in the past 12 months.

North Norfolk MP and Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said: “This is a completely botched reform of the GP contract and the government has failed to develop an adequate out-of-hours care system.

“Relying on doctors being flown in for a weekend shift is not sustainable.”

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “The NHS has always used professionals trained abroad because until recently we did not train enough for our own needs. Now the need to use overseas doctors is declining.”

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