UK immigration change plea over doctor jobs

Keshav Singhal said Wales was more affected by a UK-wide shortage of doctors than other areas and that "the recruitment from the Indian subcontinent which traditionally filled a lot of gaps in the NHS has almost completely dried up".

The British Medical Association in Wales has called for urgent action over the shortage of middle-grade doctors, who often act as the senior doctor on duty in hospitals.

It has said UK immigration law changes have led to doctors recruited overseas having their entry to the UK delayed, although the UK Border Agency says the UK immigration system was flexible.

One west Wales NHS trust has said it has more than 60 vacant doctor posts which could make some of its hospitals "clinically unsafe".

Mr Singhal, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon, said UK immigration policy changes as well as the European directive limiting junior doctors' working hours were affecting doctor recruitment.

"The two coming together more or less at the same time has meant that we just don't have enough pairs of hands," he said.

"The doctors who are permitted to come over [from overseas] are only permitted to do so for very short stretches, which is neither enough to complete their training, nor enough to give them a career in this country.

"The government needs to look at it very seriously and perhaps devise a Welsh-specific solution because it's more of a problem in Wales than it is in home counties."

A UK Border Agency spokesperson said the UK immigration points-based system does not prevent overseas doctors the health service needs from coming to the UK.

"Foreign doctors can come here to work through Tier 1, which is for highly skilled migrants, or Tier 2, which is for skilled migrants. Students coming to the UK to study medicine can come in under Tier 4.

"The points based system means only those we need can come here to work. It is also flexible so that we can raise or lower the bar according to the needs of the labour market and the country as a whole.

"Overseas doctors who meet the criteria will be welcomed."

The UK Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in UK visas and immigration services.