October 10, 2007

Steps to curb overseas doctors in Britain

Indian doctors should think several times before coming to Britain for jobs - the employment situation has been difficult for non-European Union doctors, and new proposals have been drawn to guarantee jobs to doctors trained in Britain.

An increase in fresh graduates turned out by British medical schools and the availability of a large number of doctors from an expanded European Union have made it difficult for non-EU doctors to gain employment in the National Health Service (NHS).

The health minister, Ben Bradshaw, has drawn up proposals to slash the number of junior doctors from overseas coming to Britain to train. The idea behind the proposals is to preserve jobs for the rising number of British medical graduates.

During the recent round of recruitment in the Medical Training Application Service (MTAS), non-EU doctors could not be excluded from consideration under court orders. During the MTAS rounds earlier this year, several hundred Indian doctors gained employment in the NHS.

However, the situation is likely to change if the new proposals are implemented. A court hearing is due later this month on the case brought by the British Association of Physicians of Indian origin (BAPIO), which challenged changes to immigration rules for non-EU doctors who had entered Britain under the highly skilled migrants permit.

Putting forth his new proposals, Bradshaw said that if overseas applicants were preventing those educated here from getting specialist training places, "then it is only right that we should consider what needs to be done".

The government is proposing that doctors from countries outside the EU should not be considered for a job unless there are no qualified applicants from Britain or from elsewhere in Europe. This is an unlikely scenario given the popularity of medical training in Britain and the EU.

According to Bradshaw, Britain now has 6,451 medical school places, compared with 3,749 in 1997, and each student can cost up to 250,000 pounds to train. During the MTAS rounds, several British doctors who could not find employment left the country as the issue snowballed into a major public controversy through demonstrations and petitions.

There is also a proposal that fresh British medical graduates would automatically get a first-year hospital training place on graduation, which would give them a head start over even other European candidates.

Meanwhile, representatives of BAPIO met officials of the Conference of Postgraduate Medical Deans (COPMed) after a BAPIO study raised concerns that non-white British graduates as well as those who had received their primary qualification overseas were more likely (as compared to white British graduates) to be found to be not making adequate progress with their training and referred for remedial training.

BAPIO sources told IANS that during the meeting, both groups affirmed their strong commitment to equality of opportunity within medical education. The discussions included plans to monitor educational outcomes and address areas of concern where these were identified.

Ramesh Mehta, president of BAPIO, said: "We are pleased to note that COPMeD chairman Elisabeth Paice was very receptive of our concerns. We look forward to the approval of the draft plan by the CoPMeD."

Elizabeth Paice said: "It was very useful to exchange viewpoints with Mehta, and to discuss how we could move from concern and evidence to appropriate action."

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