Will immigration changes add to recruitment woe?

Last week saw Gordon Brown get tough on immigration.

In the Daily Mail, we heard that the government was cracking down on immigration starting with a curb on doctors. Self sufficiency should be the goal of workforce planning, but are we really there yet?

My previous blog on rota gaps highlighted the problems many junior doctors have working on understaffed rotas and the fact, which even the Department of Health acknowledges, that part of the rota gaps problem is due to a previous crackdown on immigration.

Predicting the numbers needed to staff the NHS is complicated and whilst we may have competition for jobs in some parts of the country, other parts may have problems recruiting the doctors they need to deliver services to patients.

Earlier last week I was talking on BBC Radio Cumbria about the North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust. This trust is recruiting junior doctors and consultants from India because they can’t find home grown candidates, which clearly illustrates the problem with a heavy handed approach to immigration. My worry is that this will affect the quality of care patients in the NHS are getting and the amount of training that junior doctors are exposed to – leaving them ill-equipped to be the consultants of tomorrow.

Of course, as with most government announcements, there seems to be very little policy behind the rhetoric but in his effort to sound tough on immigration Gordon Brown must not ignore the fact we need a flexible system that does not leave the NHS short of doctors.

The BMA’s junior doctors committee is working to ensure that international doctors are able to take up the posts they are offered without being hindered by the red tape that surrounds visa applications. With 2010 around the corner, it’s very much a case of watch this space to see how the immigration changes on top of the European Working Time Directive affect junior doctor recruitment.

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