Britain's health authorities are in talks with doctors of Indian origin who have been adversely affected by recent employment rules that in effect make it virtually impossible for them to gain employment in the National Health Service (NHS).
As officials of the department of health discuss options available with representatives of the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO), a judge has admitted the case filed in the high court by the association against the allegedly discriminatory rules.
In April, the department had announced plans to abolish permit free training for non-EU doctors. Under the permit free training scheme, doctors from the Indian sub-continent and elsewhere were able to gain employment in the NHS.
However, the new rules stipulated that doctors of non-EU origin would need a work permit to gain employment in the NHS. A work permit is only issued if an employer proves that there is no one in the EU who could do the same job.
BAPIO has claimed that the departments have not followed due procedures such as appropriate consultations and undertaking of a Race Equality Impact Assessment. The case is likely to be heard towards the end of August after the summer recess, BAPIO sources said.
Ramesh Mehta, president of BAPIO, said: "This is excellent news and the first sniff of victory. This shows the strength of our case and that we have made out the legal argument well. The icing on the cake is that the court has also ordered that the hearing be expedited.
"This demonstrates that the court appreciated the hardships that delay in resolving this matter could cause to the doctors affected."
BAPIO estimates that about 10,000 trainee doctors will have to leave the country half way through their training within months unless the rules are changed. Elsewhere, BAPIO delegates were invited by Health Minister Lord Warner to discuss the concerns of international doctors.
Satheesh Mathew, head of BAPIO's London division, said that the meeting was amicable and that they were able to raise many relevant issues with the minister. BAPIO has since met senior officials from the department of health to consider possible solutions.
The BAPIO negotiating team was led by Ramesh Mehta and consisted of Raman Lakshman, Satheesh Mathew, Gopal Sheshappanavar and Satwinder Basra.
Buddhdev Pandya, honorary corporate advisor to BAPIO, said: "The news from the court is a good omen. However we are happy that the minister has opened up dialogue with BAPIO which may have potential to resolve the problem."
BAPIO had organised a peaceful demonstration at the Whitehall April 21 and submitted a petition signed by over 6,000 doctors to the department of health.
BAPIO has claimed that the decision to abolish permit free training for doctors qualified outside the UK and the EEA was unfair and unjust.
It has also argued that the department of health guidelines on interpretation of the immigration rules, on doctors with leave to remain in the UK under the Highly Skilled Migrants Programme, were discriminatory and unreasonable.
In the case filed in the high court, BAPIO has asked for a judicial review and requested the court to declare the abolition of permit free training unlawful.