THE BMA has warned that the Tory government’s recommendations on new visa rules from the Migrations Advisory Committee could lead to UK-trained doctors leaving the NHS.
This comes at a time, when one in three GPs are considering retiring in the next five years, hundreds of GP trainee posts remain vacant this year, and after the government’s imposition of a new contract on junior doctors, concerns are rising that many will vote with their feet and leave the NHS.
In a letter to the immigration minister the BMA outlined that international doctors, who have been trained in the UK, will be subject to the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT).
Doctors subject to the RLMT can only apply for specialty posts after UK and EEA doctors have applied – when most vacancies have already been filled. This could lead to a situation where UK-trained doctors will be unlikely to get specialty training in the UK, and may have to leave the country to work elsewhere.
This change would not only have a devastating impact on the 500 overseas medical graduates of UK medical schools each year, but also on patient care. Setting the immigration skills charge at £1000 per year and Health Education England, the single sponsor for all doctors training in England, would be subject to charges of more than £800,000 per year alone.
Given the financial pressures on the NHS, it is not appropriate to divert the budget away from front-line services in this way. Increasing the minimum salary threshold from £20,800 to £30,000 would prevent doctors in training and many specialty doctors from being able to work less than full-time, which could lead to UK trained doctors being forced to leave the NHS, if they need flexible working arrangements due to caring or other responsibilities.
Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, said: ‘UK medical graduates from overseas, and international medical graduates are essential members of our medical workforce and the NHS is dependent on them to provide high-quality, reliable and safe services to patients.
‘These changes ignore that key fact, and if they are implemented by the government they could have a series of unintended and harmful consequences for patient care and the wider NHS. ‘What these recommendations propose is that students from overseas who have obtained a UK medical degree will be last in line to get a job.’