Hospital Dr News

MTI for overseas doctors facing closure

Proposed changes to immigration laws will have a significant impact on a training initiative that increases the quality of medical healthcare in the developing world and has significant benefits for the NHS.

This is the fear of both VSO and the Royal College of Physicians, which both warn that the two-year Medical Training Initiative (MTI) will be put at risk if the government adopts its proposal to cut the duration of Tier 5 visas for temporary workers to just one year.

VSO and the RCP are calling for an exemption for health workers coming to Britain as part of the MTI, which trains about 200 doctors a year from the developing world, to ensure they can take advantage of the full two years of training.

VSO UK head of external affairs, Kathy Peach said: “The MTI has minimal impact on long-term immigration numbers with all doctors carefully selected and processes put in place to ensure they return to their home countries after their training. A full two years of medical training is needed to ensure doctors receive all the skills they need to save more lives in developing countries.

“Under the proposed changes it will be easier for an unskilled Australian bar worker to stay in the UK for two years than a skilled Sudanese doctor who wants to come to Britain to receive medical training that saves lives, and make a contribution to providing high quality services to patients in the UK.

The changes will mean that MTI doctors and other workers will no longer be counted in incoming migrant figures.

Peach added: “In many developing countries, such as Sri Lanka, doctors cannot receive their post university training in their own country. They must go abroad for two years to complete their qualifications. Britain has played a vital role in training doctors from countries where the shortage of skilled health professionals is leading to tens of thousands of preventable deaths each year. We are concerned that our good work in helping address needless deaths in the developing world is under threat.

“Reducing the MTI to one year will lead to doctors seeking training in other countries which do not have the safeguards in place to ensure those doctors return to their home countries, where they are needed most, once they complete their training.”

There are currently 340 doctors working in 149 trusts across the UK through the MTI. Of these, 77 were sponsored by the RCP and an additional 205 physicians are due to start posts in the UK in the coming months.

Sir Richard Thompson, president of the Royal College of Physicians, added: “The MTI benefits the NHS. It makes financial sense by reducing locum costs. The MTI also helps hospitals fill rotas gaps, which has been exacerbated by the limiting effects of the European Working Time Directive and the New Deal on junior doctors’ hours of work”

Fifty-seven countries worldwide suffer from a severe shortage of health workers. Thirty-six of these are in Africa, which has just 3% of global health workers but bears 24% of the global burden of disease.

Commenting in Hospital Dr earlier this year, Nuradh, a Sri Lankan oncologist in the MTI scheme, said: “After training for 4-5 years in local hospitals, our postgraduate training programme requires a mandatory period of overseas training of around 24 months. This is meant to give us an exposure and experience in working in a different health care system.

“Many trainees of my country completed this period under the MTI and have returned to my country. As an overall figure almost 80-90% of our trainees return to the country. Reducing the Tier 5 visa duration would mean that we may have to look to other countries such as Australia to complete this component.”

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One Response to “MTI for overseas doctors facing closure”

  1. Dr Umesh Prabhu says:

    UK government policies really amaze me and sadly they are good at scoring own goals!

    As such, NHS is struggling to recruit doctors to non-trainee middle grade posts. Trusts are spending lot of money on locums. Any doctor willing to do non-trainee middle grade jobs in A&E, Paediatrics, Medicine are earning much more than any other doctors. They can name their price and NHS wastes money paying these locums. Of course, many of them do provide excellent care but sadly when there is shortage the quality does drop and the Trusts are desperate to appoint anyone because of acute shortage of doctors. This change in Immigration regulation is simply going to compound the problem. It really saddens me that the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. I do hope someone ‘up’ there is listening to our concerns and do something so that we can appoint good doctors who can provide good quality care to our ‘poor’ patients.

    If the MTI scheme is reduced to one year then the shortage of doctors will continue and the NHS will continue to spend lot of money on locum doctors and our patients will continue to suffer due to shortage of doctors.

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