UK now imports more doctors than it trains

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Britain is now importing more doctors than it trains, People Management reports statistics from the General Medical Council have revealed. According to the medical watchdog, more than half (53%) of those joining the UK’s medical register last year had trained overseas, up from 39% in 2015. In 2018, a total of 7,186 doctors who trained at UK medical schools joined the medical register compared to 8,115 who joined after training abroad. It marks the first time since 2006 that British doctors have been outnumbered by those from overseas.

Una Lane, director of registration and revalidation at the GMC, is quoted in the report as saying: “Doctors with qualifications from overseas make a vital contribution to UK health services and they have been doing so for many years. The National Health Service (NHS) is reliant on this population of doctors to deliver high quality care to patients across the UK every day of the week.”

Concerns around the future of NHS staffing have increased in the run-up to Brexit, with an estimated 11,000 vacancies across NHS England currently unfilled. The report says statistics released last year by the Kings Fund, the Nuffield Trust and the Health Foundation predicted the staffing crisis in the NHS was deepening so fast the service could be short of 350,000 key personnel by 2030. That would mean one in six of all NHS posts would be unfilled.

Earlier this month, the government announced non-EEA citizens coming to the UK to work as nurses, paramedics and medical radiographers would be exempt from Tier 2 visa regulations following concerns that the initial £30,000 limit would lead to a post-Brexit staffing crisis in schools and hospitals. Immigration minister Caroline Nokes said in the report that the exemptions were introduced “so that the NHS can continue to attract and hire experienced teachers, nurses and paramedics from overseas”.

But some commentators were concerned by the latest figures. Cancer surgeon J Meirion Thomas, a frequent critic of NHS workforce planning, said the trend was a “recipe for absolute disaster”. Thomas is quoted in the report as saying: “I think there is a moral issue here. We are poaching doctors from abroad and have done for decades. They are coming from countries where they have been trained at public expense and where they are sorely needed.”

People Management report

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