Urgent need to increase the visa ceiling for foreigners

There is an urgent need to raise the visa cap to allow more international medical graduates to work and train in the NHS. An article published today by the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine discusses how raising the cap could help address the exceptionally difficult workforce challenges facing the health service.

The impact of Brexit on European-born doctors working in the NHS and the fallout from young doctors’ contract disputes have led many doctors to take career breaks, leave medicine or the UK.

The paper’s co-author, Dr Fraz Mir, Head of School of Medicine, Health Education East of England, said: ‘The promise of hundreds more local doctors will not materialize for a number of years. years and even then, external support with certainty continues to be necessary.

A program launched in 2009, the Medical Education Initiative (MTI), provides what the authors describe as a cost-effective and more favorable mechanism to temporarily recruit more physicians compared to costly locum appointments.

It provides the opportunity for highly qualified international medical graduates, primarily from South Asia and Africa, who have broadly similar medical training programs to those in the UK, to spend up to two years in a post NHS training.

Run by Health Education England on behalf of the Department of Health, the scheme operates under the auspices of a sponsored Tier 5 visa (government authorized temporary work exchange visa), with a cap of 1,500 in all the specialties. It is linked to an officially approved training post, time-limited to a maximum of two years, preventing the ‘brain drain’ from countries not as well resourced as the UK. In addition, care is taken to ensure that MTI positions do not disadvantage the learning opportunities of UK-based interns.

To qualify, applicants must hold the appropriate medical qualifications and have reached a satisfactory level of English. They must also have been in clinical practice for three out of the last five years, including at least the last year in the specialty in which they wish to train in the UK.

The aim of the program is to provide mutual benefit to international doctors and the NHS, ultimately benefiting patients in both countries and forming lasting bonds. By attracting highly qualified doctors, the program also enables international doctors to share their experiences and expertise with British colleagues.

Dr Mir said: ‘International medical graduates often have a valuable understanding of doing ‘more with less’ in clinical settings, expertise in tropical medicine, toxicology, infectious diseases and experience in handling larger volumes. high number of patients. The concept of ‘generalism’ in medicine and surgery as well as same-day emergency care is the norm in countries like India and Nigeria and something the UK could learn from.

Given the current workforce situation, he said, the importance of the MTI program is likely to increase. Therefore, an increase in the Tier 5 visa cap is urgently needed.

Dr Mir added: ‘In the longer term, a reciprocal arrangement allowing UK trainees to gain clinical and academic experience overseas would be welcome. Building stronger research links through the MTI program, particularly in the areas of epidemiology and public health, is also likely to be very beneficial.

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