An employment law challenge to the UK foundation programme could open it up to graduates from 17 other countries.
Medical student leaders warn that if a student from the Czech Republic wins her case it could place an extra burden on the training scheme, which has already been oversubscribed for the past two years.
UK students have to complete the first year of the two-year programme to register with the GMC and without this cannot become fully licensed doctors.
BMA medical students committee co-chair Elly Pilavachi said the outcome of the challenge would therefore be crucial.
She insisted: ‘If the whole of Europe can apply for foundation posts we will expect oversubscription to grow into a problem of even more worrying proportions.
‘We do not want to be left in a state where hundreds of British medical students cannot get a foundation job, and therefore cannot get full GMC registration.’
Eligibility criteria challenged
The Czech student initially contested the eligibility criteria for the two-year training scheme with the UKFPO (UK Foundation Programme Office).
A preliminary hearing was conducted last month and the case has now progressed to an employment tribunal against the four UK health departments, which the Department of Health will defend on their behalf.
Currently, only medical students who are not eligible for full GMC registration can apply for the foundation programme. As medical degrees in 16 countries of the EEA (European Economic Area) plus Switzerland include at least 12 months of clinical experience, these students are eligible for registration and cannot apply for the programme.
Without this rule, more EEA graduates would become eligible to apply for the programme under EU employment law.
Kapenova vs the DH will be heard at the London Central Employment Tribunal in the autumn. Although the UKFPO is no longer the respondent, a spokesperson confirmed it would give evidence on behalf of the DH.