United Kingdom
UK - No more a land of Equal Opportunities?
Feb 11, 2007 - 10:15:44 AM

Indian doctors have historically made significant contributions to the National Health Service (NHS)for more than 30-40 years. The recent verdict on Friday, 9th Febuary 2007 has definitely disappointed these Indian medicos in the United Kingdom. The implications are that thousands of trainee Indian doctors in UK may have to return home soon as the London High court has upheld new rules, abolishing permit-free training for overseas doctors.

The competence of the Indian doctors has been widely acknowledged and valued in the UK and elsewhere. It is not easy for a qualified professional to take the decision to leave his home and route towards a foreign country and serve a different population in a totally different setting and among different regulations. However, Indian doctors have only shown their adaptive nature and proved themselves to be 'safe doctors' as per General Medical Council (GMC) regulations, years after years.

An International Medical Graduate (IMG) has to show his talent not only by his hard-earned qualifications overseas, but also go through arduous examinations like International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) conducted by GMC. Satisfied with the competencies of the doctor, GMC then allows an IMG to search for a suitable job/post in the country.

Well, the new judgment definitely implies that around 16,000 doctors from NHS have to leave. With advanced qualifications from India and UK, combined with work-experience in both these countries, will not prevent any of these doctors to start practicing anywhere in the world. Of course, the definite disadvantage to these IMGs is that they are in the mid-way of their training, and leaving at this point would mean to start again from a scratch.

When GMC still stands on its claims of Good Medical Practice emphasizing on Safe Doctors for Safer Patients, Department of Health and Home Office do not mind loosing these 16,000 doctors who have stood with the test of time and the GMC standards for all these years.

NHS has stopped recruiting doctors on the basis of talent, work-experience and qualifications. Suddenly, passport color has become the shortlisting criterion. Almost every post advertisement is not without the clause which makes it clear that an IMG's application for any post (training or non-training) would be considered only if there are not enough applications from EU graduates. This only means that eventually the present workforce in NHS would be replaced by doctors from European Union (EU), who neither require passing PLAB to prove their competencies nor a work-permit to get a job. Their applications are being considered at par with the local UK graduates irrespective of the known fact that most of these EU graduates have not even had their basic medical training in English.

When asked, a non-EU IMG said, "It's a shame on NHS to make us submit 'Equal Opportunities form' along with our applications for any posts. With the decisions like this, I can hardly find any sort of equal opportunity in this country." There are thousands of the doctors in the middle of their training in UK, who have served NHS for years, and now they are being asked to leave the country. This is obviously unfair and many feel this is betrayal. These doctors have invested their critical time, career, effort, emotions and money, serving NHS for years.

The British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) along with the support of several IMGs, has decided to file an appeal against the judgment of the High Court and seek a stay order on the new regulation.

With more than 16,000 Highly Skilled Migrants (HSMP) leaving the country, the ever increasing waiting lists in NHS hospitals, shutting down of several wards and closing down thousands of beds in various NHS trust, perhaps, is not going to make UK a favorite international destination for qualified professionals or health visitors. When talent counts only second in the recruitment criteria for future NHS doctors, we only hope that patients get more lucky as hospitals become less safe. For those seeking an international experience, UK is definitely not the country to provide you with an Equal Opportunity.

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