A tranche of leading doctors have suggested that the plan authored by Jeremy Hunt to ensure that the NHS is more self sufficient via homegrown medics is doomed to failure.
The individuals in question believe that it could even pose a major risk to the health service, and is fundamentally ill-founded.
Presidents of the two medical royal colleges have written to The Guardian to inform the health secretary that this move has had a detrimental impact on overseas doctors currently working within the NHS system.
Prof Jane Dacre, president of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), and Clare Marx, her counterpart at the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS), suggest that the policy could ultimately deprive the NHS of foreign medics.
“While the recent announcement by the secretary of state of 1,500 extra medical school places is welcome, as over a quarter of current NHS doctors are from overseas, the extra places will not in themselves produce a self-sufficient UK medical workforce and we will still need our overseas doctors. The announcement has led to our colleagues from overseas feeling that they may not be as valued as UK doctors and is affecting morale. We cannot let this happen,” the two physicians assert in the letter.
Suggesting that medicine is fundamentally based on free movement in the contemporary world, the pair also take time to highlight the role that overseas doctors currently perform in the National Health Service.
“This model has served the UK and the NHS well for decades. Moving away from that model is a major risk to the success of the NHS.”
Dr Mahiben Maruthappu, the chairman of the UK Medical Students’ Association, has also voiced concern about Hunt’s plan, while Dr Mark Porter, chairman of the British Medical Association, is entirely in agreement with the view of the two professors.
“If the government’s plan is to train more UK doctors and stop recruiting from abroad, it will not address the staff shortages in any way. There simply won’t be enough doctors for the number of patients walking through our hospital and GP surgery doors. The reality is that training this number of extra doctors will not make the NHS self-sufficient by 2025. But the question should be whether we want or need it to be. The government should not underestimate the vital skills and expertise that overseas doctors bring”.
A Department of Health spokesperson responded to the claims by outlining the plans of the department with regard to training native Britons to work in the NHS.
“Self-sufficiency simply means that we want the NHS to be able to train enough new doctors to meet the needs of patients – many will question whether it is ethical to continue to take doctors from poorer countries who need them given the global undersupply. That in no way diminishes the fact that we want to see the outstanding work of doctors who are already trained overseas continue in the NHS”.