Intended for healthcare professionals


International Rescue

BMJ 2018; 361 doi: (Published 13 June 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;361:k2543
  1. James Buchan, senior visiting fellow,
  2. Anita Charlesworth, director of research and economics
  1. The Health Foundation, London, UK
  1. james_buchan{at}

The UK urgently needs a coherent approach to the recruitment of international doctors

The rapid agreement by the UK government to a review of the visa regime for international doctors is a rare glimmer of common sense in a matter that has been more usually characterised by national policy incoherence. What remains of concern is that it required a media campaign ( to achieve a response from government, and that the underlying problems of the UK approach to international recruitment of health professionals remain to be acknowledged and tackled.

These problems owe much to a debilitating mix of conflicting policy goals and inadequate national health workforce planning and funding. This has led to a long term “stop-go” approach to international recruitment of doctors and other health professionals, which has often been misaligned with domestic health workforce and immigration policies.

Ten years ago, the UK Parliament Health Committee report on NHS workforce planning concluded that there had been a “disastrous failure” of planning, …

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