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Overseas-trained doctors enhance the NHS by coming to work in the UK, the BMA told MPs ahead of a debate on immigration today.
Politicians are discussing a petition calling for an end to immigration in the UK, which has reached the required 100,000 signatures for it to be debated in Parliament.
The BMA has provided a briefing for MPs that highlights the positive contribution of IMGs (international medical graduates).
The briefing says: ‘IMG doctors have become essential members of the UK’s medical workforce and the NHS is dependent on IMG doctors to provide a high-quality, reliable and safe service to patients.
‘IMG doctors have enhanced the UK health system over the years, improving the diversity of the profession to reflect a changing population, and filling shortages in specialties which may otherwise remain empty.’
It goes on to say that the BMA does not support the ‘unfettered migration’ of overseas doctors and recognises the principle of reducing reliance on overseas-trained staff.
However, it adds: ‘The BMA also believes that it is essential to recognise that workforce gaps remain in certain regions of the UK and within particular medical specialties.
'Where such a situation exists, the BMA believes the NHS should be able to recruit staff from overseas where there is no one suitably qualified in the UK.’
The BMA adds that employers must have the capacity to recruit and retain overseas doctors when other staffing solutions have proved unsuccessful.
The debate follows a decision by home secretary Theresa May last week to place nurses on the shortage occupation list as a result of recruitment and retention problems, which have led to a 10 per cent vacancy rate. The move followed lobbying by a number of organisations, including the Royal College of Nursing.
Meanwhile, the BMA also briefed MPs ahead of the second reading in the Commons of the Immigration Bill last week.
Its briefing says: ‘The Government’s proposals to introduce new English language requirements for public sector workers should not undermine or duplicate the English language testing requirements already required by the GMC for obtaining a licence to practise in the UK.’
The association also used the briefing to highlight ‘deep concerns’ about the lack of consultation on proposals to impose an ‘immigration skills charge’ on employers who sponsor non-European Economic Area migrants.
It says such a charge would divert vital funds away from the health service to other parts of the public sector rather than tackling immediate workforce shortages in the NHS.