Published: 26/09/2002, Volume II2, No. 5824 Page 5

World-renowned heart surgeon Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub's campaign to attract hundreds of specialists to work in the NHS is to be refocused after the first round failed to attract a single cardiothoracic surgeon.

The International Fellowship scheme was launched in February with Sir Magdi as 'roving ambassador' travelling the world to recruit 450 specialists to work in the NHS for two years as consultants in cardiothoracic surgery, radiology, psychiatry and pathology.

In July, health secretary Alan Milburn claimed that 100 doctors would be in place by the end of the year. But in August HSJ exclusively revealed that the scheme had failed to attract a single surgeon in Sir Magdi's specialty.

This week, Sir Magdi revealed that the first phase of the scheme has managed to make just 25 firm appointments - 16 psychiatrists seven pathologists and two radiologists. Between four and eight cardiothoracic surgeons are still being considered for seven posts.

John Lowry from the Royal College of Surgeons said that some cardiothoracic candidates had not provided enough evidence of their experience. 'Finding suitable candidates to interview was a significant problem. Some of them failed to show evidence of the number of cardiac patients that they had treated.'

Now the scheme is to be refocused. Advertisements appearing in clinical journals over the next two months will offer 150 fellowships in thoracic surgery, cardiac anaesthesia, imaging, clinical oncology psychiatry and histopathology.

Last week the Royal College of Pathologists announced that the NHS was short of 400 histopathologists and that cancerscreening targets were in danger ofbeing missed as a result.

In a statement, Sir Magdi said the fellowship had generated a 'high level' of interest from surgeons across the world. 'I am hopeful that following my forthcoming three visits over the next few months to the US to participate in international meetings, there will be more applicants in other important areas such as cardiothoracic anaesthesia.

'The scheme has and should continue to achieve the objectives of raising the profile of the NHS abroad while encouraging professionals to contribute to and learn from our system.'

The 'golden hello' payments scheme to attract GPs to the NHS is to be extended to doctors who return to the service. From this week, payments of up to£10,000 will be available to GPs not currently working in NHS general practice who return to take up a post in the service.