Dependence on international doctors highlights workforce emergency in the NHS, says BMA

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: England
Published: Friday 5 August 2022
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Responding to a BBC analysis of NHS Digital data, which shows that NHS in England is becoming increasingly reliant on international doctors rather than those who trained in the UK, Dr Kitty Mohan, chair of the international committee at the BMA, said:

“This analysis illustrates the workforce emergency facing the NHS, which has become increasingly dependent on international recruitment due to chronic staffing shortages underpinned a by lack of effective workforce planning by Government.

“The NHS has grown heavily reliant on doctors from overseas who have and continue to make an enormous contribution to our health service. This was evidenced during the pandemic as international doctors were front and centre of the battle on the NHS frontline – with a disproportionate number sadly losing their lives to the virus.

“The simple fact is that we do not have enough doctors, nurses and other healthcare staff to meet the growing and increasingly complex healthcare needs of our population. Doctors are cutting their hours or making plans to leave the health service altogether for a range of reasons – including years of pay erosion, punitive pension taxation rules, punishing workloads, stress and exhaustion, restrictive immigration rules, and sadly, verbal and physical abuse.

"The Government has had multiple opportunities to put this right by listening to calls from the BMA and more than 100 expert organisations to include the need for independent, long-term workforce projections and assessments in the Health and Care Act, which it roundly rejected.

"We are calling for the Government and NHS England to publish a long-term workforce strategy as soon as possible. It must be transparent, made publicly available and include details of current workforce numbers and future workforce requirement based on patient need.

“It is vital that the Government leaves no stone unturned in finding solutions to the NHS workforce crisis. As well as trying to recruit and retain doctors here in the UK, it is crucial that we ensure that international staff feel welcomed and valued and have the appropriate support to work here in the NHS where they are so badly needed – this week’s strengthening of the international recruitment code of practice is a welcome step, but there is much more to be done.”


Notes to editors

The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.