BMA members reject proposal to restrict jobs to EU medical graduates

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: (Published 08 November 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:959
  1. Lynn Eaton
  1. London

    Members of the BMA have come out against government proposals to restrict access of medical students from outside the European Union to jobs in the NHS.

    The result comes from a survey of BMA members concerning the findings of the inquiry into medical training led by John Tooke (BMJ 2007;335:737, 13 Oct doi: 10.1136/bmj.39363.596273.59). Speaking at a BMA conference last week, Professor Tooke said it was essential that the matter of international medical graduates was dealt with urgently.

    “If we don't resolve that issue, we are in for a really, really big problem next summer, because there will be as many applicants but with fewer training posts,” he said. “We have to ensure fair treatment for those people who have been parked in the fixed term service training appointment role.”

    The Department of Health in England is considering plans to make it harder for international doctors to apply for postgraduate training posts, making more places available for UK medical graduates.

    Almost two thirds (64%) of the 737 doctors and medical students surveyed by the BMA believed that overseas students who graduate from UK medical schools should not be prevented from competing for training jobs. Just over half (57%) thought that doctors who qualified overseas should be entitled to compete with UK graduates for training posts, although most of these thought that this should apply only to those who were already working in the NHS.

    “The government has made a mess of medical training,” said Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the BMA's council. “It appears they are now trying to penalise the thousands of overseas doctors and medical students who want to work in the NHS.”

    The survey also showed that half of the respondents opposed the idea of a national computerised examination on entry to core specialist training. Seven in ten (69%) agreed with Professor Tooke that training for general practice should be extended to five years.

    The BMA is also worried that a recommendation from the Tooke report—that UK graduates would be guaranteed a place on the first foundation year of training but would have to compete for their second year place—could result in unemployment among medical graduates.

    “What happens if, having completed one year, they can't then get a place the following year to complete the course?” said Ian Noble, chairman of the BMA's medical students committee. “It's an absolute disgrace for doctors to be left in limbo in this way.”

    Meanwhile, the Department of Health has announced that by 31 October—the date set for the end of the second round of applications to the medical training application service (MTAS)—14 760 of a potential 15 554 posts in England had been filled (95%).

    “More than 90% of the UK graduates this year will continue to work in the NHS, even if they have not secured a training post,” said a spokesperson.

    The government has also extended to 31 December the employment guarantee for those in substantive NHS posts.

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