Hospital Dr News

Doctor immigration delays causing service chaos

Strict new immigration rules are creating problems with recruiting junior doctors from overseas and leaving hospitals short of staff.

Gynaecological services at Erne Hospital in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, were suspended recently because only one of six new junior doctors recruited from the Asian subcontinent was able to start work on time. The doctors have been told it will take at least 9 to 12 weeks for their work permits to be issued.

“It is bureaucracy gone mad,” said Professor Mahen Varma, a cardiologist at the hospital.

In South Wales, the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg Trust has recruited nine middle grade doctors from India who are waiting the green light from UK immigration. The trust currently has 73 vacant doctor posts at all grades, according to figures collected by South Wales West Welsh Assembly Member Alun Cairns.

Dr Ramesh Mehta, president of the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO), said they had heard of similar problems across the UK with the Working Time Directive making the situation even worse.

He said the problems related to bureaucracy created by the new Medical Training Initiative (MTI), launched in February, which allows international medical graduates (IMGs) to work in the UK for two years and then return home.

The immigration process involves paperwork from five organisations – the royal colleges, deaneries, the GMC, NHS Professionals and the Home Office. 

BAPIO has proposed that all the paperwork should be coordinated by the royal colleges. It has also asked for IMGS to be allowed to stay for longer than two years because it takes them six months to settle in and that they should be given more training under the scheme.

“The immigration process for IMGs is taking too long while hospitals have acute shortages of doctors. These people in their ivory towers should wake up and let these doctors come here and get on with some good work,” said Dr Mehta.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “We are not aware of any delays caused by immigration, however, we will respond to any issues raised with us.”

He said the royal colleges could never take over the role of UK Border Agency (UKBA) or issue the overseas visas. 

But he said the current length of leave for IMGs to stay in the UK and proposals to increase training benefits were currently under discussion.

The DH continues to work closely with UKBA to ensure the MTI can bring maximum benefit to IMGs and the NHS,” he said.

It’s planned that MTI will provide 750 placements a year for IMGs.

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