London. The overseas doctors in Britain are alarmed as new rules are being implemented that will make them require work permit before they can work in hospitals of the National Health Service (NHS).
There are currently thousands of doctors from the Indian subcontinent who could suddenly find themselves unemployed. In the event of a job vacancy if there are no local doctors available the first preference will be given to the European Union (EU) doctors.
So far doctors from outside the EU, including from India, were able to take up NHS jobs under what was called 'permit free training' schemes. Their jobs were considered part of training that did not require work permits.
Thousands of Indian doctors were employed under the permit free training scheme and were usually hired for short-term periods of one or two years. The doctors would need to find new posts after their term expired.
From Monday, April 3, employers now need to obtain work permits before employing these doctors after making a case to prove that no British or EU doctor can perform the same job. This rule effectively rules out any chance of employment for non-EU doctors.
The British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO), with a membership of over 25,000, is planning a protest outside the department of health here later this month.
A senior doctor of Indian origin told IANS that the employment situation for Indian doctors was anyway very difficult, with thousands of them unemployed and reduced to living in miserable conditions and availing themselves of free food served in temples and gurdwaras in London and other parts of Britain.
The new rules will adversely affect those who had managed to find work in the NHS. He said for even minor jobs, applications from highly qualified doctors were received in thousands.
Health Minister Lord Warner said: "We now have more than 117,000 doctors working in the NHS, 27,400 more than in 1997, as well as record levels of doctors in training in UK medical schools.
"This investment and expansion, coupled with the reform of medical education, is leading to increased competition for medical posts as vacancy rates fall," the minister said.
Declaring that NHS hospitals desiring to recruit doctors from outside the EU would need to obtain work permits, the minister said: "We recognize that international doctors have made a huge contribution to the NHS. However, increasingly the NHS will be less reliant on international medical recruitment."
The department of health said: "Both the needs and the structure of the health service and medical training programmes have changed considerably since this category was introduced, as have the immigration provisions for overseas nationals who want to work in the UK.
"In addition, the number of places in UK medical and dental schools has increased, meaning that there are now more UK graduates seeking relevant training posts.
"There is therefore no longer a need for a specific category in the Immigration Rules to enable doctors and dentists to train in the UK for many years".
The new rules have also been criticized by British doctors.
J.M. Purcell, a senior doctor based in Carlisle, said: "In essence, this means that doctors I have seen invest time, commitment and resources in the NHS stand to lose the opportunity to continue training here with no warning or chance to alter their plans.
"It will mean that doctors who have dedicated themselves to the NHS and begun to study for their UK postgraduate exams who were born in India will be second choice to a Polish doctor who has no experience of the NHS.
"I have profound concerns about this unjust shift which speaks volumes about the unfair way in which the immigration system operates in the UK and the high personal cost this has for individuals".