THE Royal College of Physicians, the BMA and all the leading medical organisations yesterday demanded the immediate withdrawal of a sudden, and ‘blatantly racist’ change in the law, which attacks a third of the doctors in the NHS.
Speaker after speaker at a rally of over 1,000 angry doctors opposite Downing Street condemned the new measures as a flagrant breach of equal opportunities legislation, and an attack on the NHS itself.
The law change – imposed without warning or consultation by the government – will force all doctors from India, Africa and other Commonwealth countries to get a permit to work and train in the NHS.
Doctors from the new EU states will not need permits.
NHS bodies will not be allowed to employ Commonwealth doctors – unless they can prove there is not a UK or EU doctor available to fill a post.
Doctors who spoke out at yesterday’s rally said the new law means that in future doctors will not be employed according to their merits, but according to the colour of their skin!
They warned that over 20,000 doctors in training face immediate financial ruin and being forced to leave the UK – with their careers in tatters – as a result of the changes.
Without them, doctors’ leaders warned, the NHS will not be able to keep running.
They warned that the measures are retrospective, which means they affect all International Medical Graduates (IMGs).
‘We love our doctors!’ ‘We need our doctors!’ ‘Don’t “deport’’ our doctors!’ shouted angry demonstrators opposite the gates to Downing Street, before they marched to Trafalgar Square.
Dr Z Banu, from Southall, told News Line: ‘Thousands of doctors are going to be forced to leave the country. At least 3,000 will be forced to leave by September.’
Dr V Kumar, a paediatrician from Preston, said: ‘There should have been some consultation with the International Medical Graduates and the BAPIO (British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin).
‘Always when we apply for posts they give us an Equal Opportunities form. Are we going to fill in an Equal Opportunities form now?’
‘Today there are 117,000 NHS doctors,’ said Umesh Prabhu, a leader of the BAPIO, addressing the crowd. ‘Forty thousand are from overseas or International Medical Graduates.
‘We have made a tremendous contribution towards the NHS and this is not the way to treat us and we are not going to accept it lying down.
‘If we accept this, then there is no future for anyone.’
Dr Wasim Ashraf, from the BAPIO, told News Line: ‘The nationality of the doctors should not matter.
‘What we are talking about is health care. There should not be any compromise on health care on the grounds of nationality.
‘And moreover, the whole process has been very abrupt.
‘We only found out about this change in the law on march 7th, when the first press statement came out from the Department of Health.
‘And in that also it was mentioned that the changes would be effective from July this year.
‘But, in fact, they have implemented the changes immediately.’
Consultant Dr Peter Trewby, from the Royal College of Physicians, said: ‘For the first time in the history of the NHS we are going to see race and origin trumping merit and that is a very sad thing indeed.’
He said that Indian and Commonwealth doctors ‘have kept the NHS going for the last 50 years’, adding: ‘You have the support of the royal colleges, the BMA and every doctor who works in this country and all the patients you have treated since the NHS began.’
‘For better or worse, Britain has a colonial history and we can’t just ignore hundreds of years of association,’ said consultant paediatrician, Dr Susan Liedeschutz.
Dr Wasim Ashraf told News Line: ‘We are not opposed to doctors from the European Economic Area working here. Why should we be?
‘But we say doctors from Commonwealth and other countries outside the EEA should have the right to be considered for employment in the UK on their individual merit.’
• Second news story
FORD $2.9 BILLION LOSS IN NORTH AMERICA
THE Ford Motor Company yesterday reported its North American unit made a $2.9bn loss in the first three months of 2006.
And despite better performances from Ford Europe and Ford South America, the overall first quarter loss was $1.19bn (£629m).
Ford blamed a large amount of its North American losses on a $1.7bn charge from plant closures and mass sackings.
Ford plans to slash 30,000 jobs and close 14 plants by 2012 to reduce its costs.
The number two car giant, which is trying to stem falling sales in its home market, made a $1.2bn profit this time last year.
CEO Bill Ford said ‘we are not satisfied with our performance, particularly a loss in North America automotive’.
Ford’s US car sales fell nearly three per cent in the first quarter of 2006, continuing a year-long trend.
Overall, Ford’s revenues dropped nine per cent to $41.1bn.
Ford and General Motors have lost US market share to Japanese competitors such as Toyota in recent times.
Bill Ford added: ‘We have said we intend to restore automotive profitability in North America by no later than 2008 and we remain committed to deliver on our promise.’