25 June 2009

UK losing doctors emigrating to Australia

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A report by the Western Mail has shown Wales is facing a doctor shortage as new immigration rules threaten overseas doctors taking up vacant posts.

Some overseas doctors are finding gaining a visa so difficult that they are considering emigrating to Australia or New Zealand, who seem more welcoming.

The new visa rules, which came into force earlier this year, also apply to overseas doctors who were trained in Welsh and UK medical schools.

The Government will amend the rules slightly and waive the resident labour market test for 2009 to ensure some UK-trained junior doctors who come from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) can take up their posts in August.

Experts have said the changes could be too little too late, especially for specialities such as paediatrics and anaesthetics that are struggling to recruit.

One overseas doctor who was trained in Wales has said he will emigrate to Australia or New Zealand if he struggles to renew his visa in September.

Qualified doctors from outside the EEA are no longer eligible for a tier one, three-year visa if they do not have a masters degree and instead must apply for a tier two visa. This costs £465 every time a person’s employer changes – some junior doctors on rotation could have to pay every four months as they move from one NHS trust to another.

Tier two visas – work permits – are also only issued on the basis that an employer has first tried to recruit a UK or EEA national – the resident labour market test.

The Western Mail reported Dr Nishanth Nair originally from Malaysia, paid £100,000 as an overseas student to study medicine at Cardiff University. After graduating as a doctor, he completed his foundation years in Swansea and Bridgend, where he is currently working at the Princess of Wales Hospital.

Dr Nair has been offered, and has accepted, a two-year post to train in general medicine at Gwent Healthcare and Cardiff and Vale NHS trusts, which starts in August. But his current visa expires in September.

The 25-year-old said: “The visa issue supersedes the job because if I can’t get a visa I can’t stay in the country. That also means that the NHS will have a deficit of foreign doctors who they have offered jobs to – the visa situation was different when those offers were made.

“I have lived here for close on seven years; I like the country, I like living here and in the future I hope to continue training in the country with a view to staying here.

“But the recent visa changes and the uncertainty makes it very difficult to plan for the future and, for that reason, I have considered emigrating – other countries, like Australia and New Zealand, seem to be more welcoming.

“It is very disheartening that I cannot plan for the future, especially as I was trained locally and know the system.

“My degree is not recognised by the immigration system even though it is recognised by other countries.”

Dr Andrew Dearden, chairman of the BMA’s Welsh Council, said: “When you look at our recruitment and retention problems and the gaps we have in terms of the European Working Time Directive throughout the UK, particularly in Wales, this seems to be a nonsense policy.

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