Patient care threatened by immigration curb

PLANS to further restrict the number of non-EU doctors working in the UK could harm patient care, the Royal College of Physicians has warned.

The NHS has already been struggling to fill gaps in hospital rotas because of a cap on skilled workers on tier 1 and tier 2 visas. Trusts have eased the problem through the medical training initiative – permissible under the tier 5 category of visa – which allows non-EU doctors to practise in the UK for up to 24 months.

But the Government is planning to cut migration further and the maximum stay for non-EU doctors to 12 months. The RCP fears that such a short stay would remove any training incentives for non-EU doctors and make it more difficult for NHS trusts to recruit experienced overseas medical graduates.

Richard Thompson, college president, said that the medical training initiative allowed NHS trusts not only to contribute to the training of doctors in developing countries, but also to ensure hospitals in England were adequately staffed.

He said: “Many organisations, including the Department of Health, have emphasised the importance of expanding the number of doctors coming through the medical training initiative route. These doctors have a positive influence on the NHS during their stay and help strengthen links with other countries, as well as developing international loyalties to the UK.”

The RCP has written to home secretary Theresa May expressing its concerns and has been told the proposals would be put out to consultation later in the year, a college spokesman confirmed.