UK’s National health Services (NHS), is reportedly running short of General Practitioners (GPs) and is aiming to recruit doctors from India on a Tier 2 visas to make up for the deficit. Health Education England (HEE), NHS’s employment and training department has signed an MOU with The Apollo Hospitals in India regarding the same. The UK government has entrusted the HEE with an arduous task of hiring close to 5,000 GPs by the 2020. HEE is already falling behind in achieving those numbers but the MOU with Apollo Hospitals could ensure the much needed influx of doctors to Britain should they clear the rigorous tests.
In an earlier report published by the UK daily newspaper – The Telegraph, University of Oxford had already forewarned the NHS about the increasing workload which had risen to 16% over the last seven years calling it “unsustainable”. What emerges from this crisis is that becoming a medical doctor is not a lucrative profession for the British people and a lot of people opt out of doing this work. According to surveys, the pay may not that low but the profession requires long hours of work and is considered by many, a stressful profession. The HEE is left with no other way out than hire doctors from outside the UK on Tier 2 visas. But the government norms make it difficult for people to recruit on Tier 2 visas due to strict sponsorship license requirements, thereby discouraging employers from getting workforce on this visa.
In the meanwhile, the “British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin” (BAPIO) – A voluntary organization set up in 1996, to support Indian doctors employed with the NHS. BAPIO said that it understood NHS’ plight and in an interview with the Pulse magazine (magazine for GPs) the President of BAPIO, Doctor Ramesh Mehta expressed his disappointment over the state of training for GPs and opined that it had not been managed properly over the years. He said that it was unfortunate that HEE had to go abroad to recruit GPs on a Tier 2 visas. Dr. Mehta also expressed his concern over the need for proper training and mentorship for doctors coming from India to help them avoid getting into trouble with the system due to an insufficient induction at the NHS.
In a report published (2015) by the “Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development” (OECD) – an organization that promotes policies to improve the economic and social lives people worldwide, stated that Britain recruited the highest number of foreign doctors in the EU making up for one third of the population of its GPs. The report also added that UK experienced that highest exodus of doctors and healthcare workers to countries abroad like Australia.
Independent research conducted by the University of Southampton and King’s College London state that the dissatisfaction levels of patients who were treated by the foreign staff was high, which led to a dip in their ratings. Patients found it difficult to understand the foreign staff and felt that the care given to them was lacking in dignity.
Doctor Umesh Prabhu, current member and former chair of the British International Doctors’ Association executive committee, expressed fear over the NHS’ decision to hire Indian doctors and felt it is a dangerous proposition as the doctors in India are not trained to be the GPs in the UK and that the
training differs between India and the UK. Dr. Umesh, expressed his concerns over the safety of doctors and patients, should this be effected.
Doctor Maureen Baker, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs however stated that NHS does not intend to parachute these doctors from their countries and although Britain encourages the NON – EU doctors to work with the NHS, recruitment would be subject to GP specialty training and passing rigorous assessments for entrance. Doctors would also have to pass the professional level language skills and assessments board test by the GMC.
Lord Hunt, Shadow Health Minister for Labour felt that it was crucial that the foreign doctors who are recruited by the NHS should pass assessments before they are allowed to practice in Britain. He stated that this short term way of resolving the crisis will not circumvent the current government’s oversight on planning, funding and recruitment of GPs in the country.
In its recent campaign to recruit Indian doctors, the HEE published a statement saying that India and England have signed an MOU to explore ways in which both countries can exchange mutual ideas.
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