Health Minister Robin Swann is taking action to streamline the processes for GPs qualified in the Republic of Ireland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa to take up roles in Northern Ireland.
Under current rules, GPs who have trained outside the UK, or who have not practised in the UK in the past two years, are required to undertake an initial knowledge assessment exam as part of the GP Induction and Refresher Scheme before they can practise in Northern Ireland.
Under the new process being brought forward by the Health Minister, GPs who qualified in the Republic of Ireland in the last two years will be exempt from sitting the exam.
The Minister said: "The similarities between GP training in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are well recognised. Amending the Scheme so that doctors who have completed training in the Republic of Ireland will not be required to sit the knowledge test (MCQ) if they have successfully completed the Irish College of General Practitioners examination within the last two years is a pragmatic step which removes an unnecessary barrier to qualified GPs practising in Northern Ireland."
In addition, the Minister confirmed that Northern Ireland will be participating in a new UK-wide scheme where GPs who have trained in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa are able to use a streamlined process known as the Certificate of Eligibility for GP Registration (CEGPR SP) if certain conditions around their training and professional experience have been met. The new scheme will make it easier for GPs who have practised in these countries to work in Northern Ireland, potentially making it easier for doctors who left Northern Ireland to pursue their professional development abroad to now return home.
These further steps to support GP recruitment and retention follow the Minister's recent announcement of a Pound 5.5m package of measures to help with the pressures facing Primary Care services across Northern Ireland.
Minister Swann added: "I am acutely aware of the need to help address pressures in General Practice and I am delighted to be able to announce this further opportunity to strengthen our GP workforce by simplifying the process for GPs qualified in the Republic of Ireland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa to take up roles in Northern Ireland to support the recruitment and retention of GPs. My Department continues to work closely with GP representatives to consider how best to respond to the challenges facing General Practice."