Red tape is contributing to a shortfall in NHS doctors, the medical regulator has warned.
Last year just 10 GPs or consultants from outside Europe registered to work in Britain and were able to practise at a senior level immediately, the General Medical Council (GMC) said.
Charlie Massey, GMC chief executive, said doctors from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) are forced to provide around 2,000 pages of information and spend more than nine months gathering evidence to work as a GP or consultant in the UK.
He called for more flexibility in the system, saying the laws that govern medical regulation have remained unchanged for decades.
“If the health service is to deliver what the public requires from it today, its regulation must be more responsive. For that, we need urgent legislative reform,” he said in a speech to the Westminster Health Forum.
He added: “While we expect around 10,000 overseas doctors to join the register this year, last year only 10 GPs or consultants from outside the EEA joined via the relevant specialist registration route and were able to practise at a senior level immediately.
“In order to improve this picture, we need more flexibility.
“That doesn’t mean a reduction in standards, simply a change to legislation to give us more discretion for determining how senior international doctors can demonstrate their knowledge and skills.”
He also called for more support for doctors already in the workforce and reform of the body’s fitness to practise process.
He said the process is a “blunt instrument” and called for more support for doctors before problems materialise.