Posted on August 26, 2013

The NHS Needs More British Doctors, Senior Surgeon Warns

Hayley Dixon, Telegraph (London), August 14, 2013

Patients are being put at risk as 40 per cent of doctors taken on by the NHS each year are foreign, a senior surgeon has warned.

Calling for more British doctors to be employed, Professor J Meirion Thomas pointed out that professionals drafted in from abroad often have language difficulties, are not as well trained, and know little of our culture.

He made the criticism during an attack on Jeremy Hunt’s plans to save the NHS, which he claims are seriously flawed.

Instead of updating computers and bringing back out-of date family doctors, the Health Secretary needs to change the role of GPs and introduce senior nurses into local surgeries to relieve the pressure on A&E departments, the senior cancer surgeon suggests.

But an “urgent problem” the Health Secretary needs to address is that “we need more British doctors”, Professor Thomas said.

“Most readers will be surprised to learn that every year, we import 40 per cent of our doctors because of insufficient training places in British medical schools,” he wrote in the Spectator.

“Most applicants to UK medical schools are rejected despite having the required A-level grades. We encourage young people to become doctors, then we slap them back for want of places.”

The GMC registers 13,000 doctors a year, 6,000 or whom come from foreign countries and start work with “little or no knowledge and experience of British culture or of our health service — and this in the most people-centric occupation of all. It really does matter,” he said.

Professor Thomas, a consultant surgeon at the Royal Marsden hospital in London, also claimed that A&E departments were at “breaking point” because “old-fashioned” GPs were “not good enough”.

He blames the Government for the lack of British doctors, saying they are unwilling to pay thousands to train them and therefore leaving the positions open to foreign doctors who see working for the NHS as a “bonanza”.

“European doctors fly in to cover locum vacancies, especially in general practice,” he wrote.

“There is no test of language proficiency before registering. As a result of austerity in southern Europe, there has been a significant increase in GMC registrations of newly-qualified doctors from Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal and especially eastern Europe. “

A GMC survey found that foreign-trained doctors are up to four times more likely to be suspended or struck off than their UK colleagues.

“Here’s a thought for Mr Hunt and Mr Cameron: ditch the useless IT scheme and spend the billions you save on training more British doctors,” he wrote.

“Yes, I know you may not see results before the next general election — or indeed the one after that. But you’re in it for the good of the country, yes? And this is an essential building block of a durable recovery for the NHS.”