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BMA: Visa rules risk losing hundreds of GPs

17 February 2016

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The NHS risks losing hundreds of medical students and UK-trained GPs, due to proposed changes to the Immigration Bill, the British Medical Association (BMA) warned.

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) announced their recommendations for the 2015 Immigration Bill, which is currently being discussed in the House of Lords.

There are concerns for the GP workforce, a spokesperson from the BMA explained, as there are around 500 overseas doctors in the medical foundation programme each year, of which around half of these become GPs. This means that around 250 potential GPs may not be able to come to the UK to do their training each year.

Mark Porter, BMA council chair warned: “This would be a completely obstructive move at a time when the NHS is facing real problems in recruiting and retaining staff and too many training posts are going unfilled.”

The minimum salary threshold could also rise from £20,800 to £30,000 if MAC’s recommendations are carried out. The BMA is concerned that this risks losing some part-time salaried GPs on a tier two visa, for example international parents who choose not to work full-time.

The union added: “Restricting the number of UK-trained doctors progressing through the system could also severely disrupt the governments goal of delivering more seven-day services and 5,000 extra GPs.”

International students and foundation doctors who have studied at a UK medical school will be on a Tier 4 visa, whereas when they enter specialty training – eg to become GPs – they move to a Tier 2 visa.

The recommendations also suggest that the charge of the Tier 2 and Tier 4 visa should be £1,000. For doctors, employers would be responsible for paying this, while for students, Health Education England would have to pay, the BMA understands.

The new MAC recommendations also advise that Tier 2 doctors can only apply for jobs after both UK and EEA (European economic area) doctors have.

“What these recommendations propose is that students from overseas who have obtained a UK medical degree will be last in line to get a job. This will very likely leave them unable to pursue a career in the specialty they wish to work in, and leave them with little option but to take their much-needed medical training and expertise to another country’s health service where they are able to continue their training…

“The Westminster government must consider specific exemptions for the health service in order to ensure we have the necessary workforce to provide patients with the care they need,” Porter added.