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Patient care threatened by medical immigration plans

Doctors oppose DH plans to manage medical migration

OnMedica staff

Wednesday, 07 May 2008

Doctors’ leaders have called for fair long-term workforce planning which does not penalise overseas doctors working in the UK.

The BMA has published its official response to the government’s consultation on proposals to manage medical migration, which include charging overseas doctors for their postgraduate training.

This consultation is ongoing despite last week’s decision by the House of Lords to rule against government guidance restricting training opportunities for doctors on the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP).

Under the new points-based immigration system, overseas doctors who already have HSMP status will be able to compete for training posts with their UK colleagues.

The BMA says the government is attempting to restrict career opportunities for overseas doctors in the UK and this could threaten patient services.

It has called for long-term workforce planning rather than “knee-jerk reactions” and says that “removing the pool of international medical graduates from the UK altogether will destabilise rotas” which would ultimately place patients at risk.

Dr Terry John, chairman of the BMA’s international committee, says: “International medical staff are keeping services running.

“Three in ten junior doctors are now working on an understaffed rota – partly a result of the fact that many of our overseas colleagues have already grown disillusioned and left the NHS.

“We agree that in the long term the UK should be able to produce and sustain its own medical workforce. However, knee-jerk solutions are likely to have a negative impact on services. There is an urgent need to improve workforce planning so we can be realistic about the chances of training and working in this country.”

From August of next year, the number of hours junior doctors can spend in hospital will fall from 56 a week to 48 because of the European Working Time Directive.

The BMA says this will increase the risks posed by a smaller pool of overseas doctors and its response says: “In the long term the BMA is concerned that the introduction of the guidance would have significant repercussions on workforce capacity.”

Read the views of R Lakshman and A Sajayan of British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin:
OnMedica Views: What ever happened to British fair play?

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