The BBC reports that a senior surgeon is calling for immigration rules for overseas doctors to be changed to allow for increased recruitment of middle-grade medics.
Keshav Singhal said Wales was more affected by a UK-wide shortage of doctors than other areas. He said:
“The recruitment from the Indian subcontinent which traditionally filled a lot of gaps in the NHS has almost completely dried up.”
The UK Border Agency (UKBA) said the points based immigration system used was flexible.
The British Medical Association in Wales has called for urgent action over the shortage of middle-grade doctors, who often act as the senior doctor on duty in hospitals.
It has said immigration law changes have led to doctors recruited overseas having their entry to the UK delayed.
One west Wales NHS trust has said it has more than 60 vacant doctor posts which could make some of its hospitals “clinically unsafe”.
In Swansea, a crisis in doctor recruitment has led the city’s in-patient paediatrics unit being moved from Singleton Hospital to Morriston Hospital. The move is being made on Thursday.
Mr Singhal, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon, said immigration policy changes as well as the European directive limiting junior doctors’ working hours were affecting doctor recruitment. He said:
“The two coming together more or less at the same time has meant that we just don’t have enough pairs of hands.
“The doctors who are permitted to come over [from overseas] are only permitted to do so for very short stretches, which is neither enough to complete their training, nor enough to give them a career in this country.
“The government needs to look at it very seriously and perhaps devise a Welsh-specific solution because it’s more of a problem in Wales than it is in home counties.”
He said Wales historically had a recruitment shortfall because locally-trained doctors had a “tendency to gravitate towards London”.
“That [shortfall] has traditionally been filled by overseas doctors and that has dried up,” he said.
A UK Border Agency spokesperson said:
“Our Australian-style points based system does not prevent overseas doctors the health service needs from coming to the UK.
“Foreign doctors can come here to work through Tier 1, which is for highly skilled migrants, or Tier 2, which is for skilled migrants. Students coming to the UK to study medicine can come in under Tier 4.
“The points based system means only those we need can come here to work. It is also flexible so that we can raise or lower the bar according to the needs of the labour market and the country as a whole.
“Overseas doctors who meet the criteria will be welcomed.
“The Migration Advisory Committee has also recognised shortages in a number of specialities and their advice has been accepted by the government.”
Immigration Matters Comment
The UKBA is technically correct, although it is not that easy for foreign Doctors to understand and jump through the hoops of Tier’s 1,2 and 4.
Even under the previous Work Permit scheme, increasing overseas recruitment for any sector would be simply be a matter of the Home Office or UKBA adding the job to the Shortage Occupations list.
The UKBA recently revised the list following recommendations by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), which advises the Government on labour shortages throughout the UK, but did not include junior or middle ranking doctors.
The list had been earlier revised because British junior doctors were not able to find work.
The problem appears to be regional rather than national. Wales and Scotland has always struggled to recruit both Nurses and Doctors, as migrant workers tend to gravitate towards larger Cities and the South East of England.
Scottish MP’s have long called for its own immigration policy, but this has been ruled out due to fears that the system could be abused.
Scotland (and parts of the North of England and Wales) has a falling population, but has yet to come up with any other way of increasing the number of people willing to settle there other than through immigration.
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