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Immigration plan “risk to patients”

A government bid to restrict career opportunities for overseas doctors working in the UK could threaten services for patients, the British Medical Association has said.

The House of Lords ruled against guidance cutting training opportunities for doctors on the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) last week.

Under the new points-based immigration system, doctors from overseas who already have HSMP status will be able to compete for training posts with UK colleagues.

But the Department of Health is still consulting on other proposals to manage migration in medicine, including making overseas doctors pay for postgraduate training.

The BMA is calling for long-term workforce planning rather than “knee-jerk reactions”, in a response to the consultation.

It says “removing the pool of international medical graduates from the UK altogether will destabilise rotas” and warns that would “ultimately place patients at risk”.

Dr Terry John, Chairman of the BMA’s International Committee, said: “International medical staff are keeping services running. Three in ten junior doctors are now working on an understaffed rota – partly a result of the fact that many of our overseas colleagues have already grown disillusioned and left the NHS.

“We agree that in the long-term the UK should be able to produce and sustain its own medical workforce. However, knee-jerk solutions are likely to have a negative impact on services.”

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British Medical Association