London: Indian doctors in the UK may find it difficult to apply for jobs under the proposed changes to the country's visa regime with plans to introduce a new test for the employers for ensuring European workers are given priority for skilled jobs.
If employers wished to recruit a migrant from outside the settled workforce for a skilled job, they will need to show that they have carried out the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) unless the post is on the shortage occupation list, according to the new proposals.
The UK Migration Advisory Committee's recommendation of a new RLMT to ensure UK and European workers are given priority for skilled jobs would mean that Indian medical graduates will be eligible to apply for higher training posts within the UK's National Health Service (NHS) only once most vacancies are already filled up.
The British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO), a representative body of nearly 50,000 Indian-origin doctors in the country, has decided to write to the UK Home Office warning of an impending "chaos" for NHS.
"We want to ensure Indian doctors are not used simply as a pair of hands to service the NHS. They should be treated equally as local doctors and given proper training before they return to their countries of origin," BAPIO President Dr Ramesh Mehta said on Saturday.
"These new proposals solve political issues and not practical problems. In real life, these proposals are unlikely to work properly. The UK needs professional staff in the healthcare field as there is a huge shortage of doctors and nurses in the country. This move will cause chaos for the NHS, besides being unfair on doctors from overseas," he said.
As part of a wider plan to engage with the NHS, BAPIO has facilitated a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust in Birmingham and the Maharashtra government to initially bring 10 doctors from India to train in emergency medicine in the UK.
"Emergency medicine is at a nascent stage in India and under this win-win situation, the NHS gets qualified doctors to meet shortages and the Indian doctors get mentoring and training in the UK.
"At the end of the two years, these specially trained doctors will return to government hospitals in Maharashtra and a new batch of 10 doctors will take their place," Mehta said.
BAPIO is planning on expanding these MoUs on a national scale between India and the UK. "Foreign health workers make a valuable contribution to the NHS," Department of Health (DoH) said.
The NHS had turned to the Indian sub-continent during severe staff shortages in the 1960s and early 2000s to increase the headcount of doctors. But the changing visa regime over the years has seen a considerable drop in the number of Indian doctors in the UK, from around 10,265 in 2009 to 6,880?in 2015.
If the latest proposals are cleared by the government, a much sharper drop is expected in these figures. The British Medical Association (BMA) has also registered its concerns over these changes in a letter to UK Immigration Minister James Brokenshire.
"UK medical graduates from overseas and international medical graduates are essential members of our medical workforce and the NHS is dependent on them to provide high-quality, reliable and safe services to patients.
"These changes ignore that key fact and if they are implemented by the government they could have a series of unintended and harmful consequences for patient care and the wider NHS," Chair of BMA Council Dr Mark Porter said.
The RLMT will apply to doctors moving from Foundation Year 2 (initial medical training) to specialty training. Currently, medical students and doctors from countries like India who have studied at a UK medical school are on a Tier 4 visa. They then move on to apply for specialty training when they switch to a Tier 2 visa and apply for specialty training posts at the same time as UK and EU residents.
The priority for UK and EU candidates under proposed changes, expected to be introduced later this year to curb migration figures, will mean UK-trained overseas doctors failing to get specialty training posts and having to leave the country without completing their higher qualifications.
"These rules will disadvantage two groups of Indian doctors those who came as medical students to qualify as MBBS and then apply for a post-graduate degree, and overseas qualified doctors who want to apply for post-graduate training in UK.
"It will be very unfortunate as the NHS is already suffering from huge shortage of doctors and these unwise regulations will only create further problems," Mehta added.