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New immigration rules endanger patient safety, says BMA

Changes in immigration rules can lead to serious shortage of doctors and add pressure on the existing staff
26th May 2009: British Medical Association (BMA) believes immigration rule changes can endanger patient safety.

It has, in fact, warned that the recent changes in immigration rules can lead to serious shortage of doctors and add pressure on the existing staff. The BMA, only recently, had expressed apprehension the UK may further lose doctors due to recent changes to the system.

The changes restrict international medical students studying in the UK from continuing with their medical training beyond the two-year postgraduate Foundation Programme.

On 31st March 2009, the Home Office changed the academic requirement for the Tier 1 immigration category. Doctors applying to Tier 1 now need the minimum of a Master’s degree to be accepted onto it.

A medical degree is classified as a Bachelor’s degree, and as a result many medical students and junior doctors who have been studying in the UK for up to seven years could be lost to the NHS, it is feared.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of BMA Council, wrote to the Secretary of State for Health, Alan Johnson, to request that he intervenes to ensure that the UK does not lose further doctors as a result of those changes.

The NHS is already facing understaffed workforce rotas in a range of medical specialties; a problem which the Department of Health has acknowledged was caused, in part, by previous changes to the immigration system.

In August 2009, the European Working Time Directive will be fully implemented, reducing the working week of junior doctors to 48 hours, placing further pressure on staffing.

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