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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 February 2007, 08:46 GMT
Curbs on foreign doctors attacked
Protesting doctors
Most of those affected are from South Asia
Doctors' leaders have again attacked how changes to the rules on foreign doctors' work have been introduced.

The High Court recently upheld changes brought in by the government last year, which make it harder for overseas doctors to train and work in the UK.

Many doctors will find it hard to get new jobs because of the changes, the British Medical Association said.

The changes were prompted by the massive rise in numbers at medical school threatening a glut of doctors.

The British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, which is appealing against the High Court ruling and has set up a legal fund, has said the changes are unfair to those who have made sacrifices to come to the UK to train and start a career.

Tightened guidance

On 3 April 2006, the rules were changed so that only graduates of UK medical schools could qualify for the government's "permit-free training" scheme.

Shortly afterwards, the Department of Health tightened the guidance for trusts employing doctors entering the country on the parallel Highly Skilled Migrant Programme.

This change means that overseas doctors can only be considered for posts if there is no candidate from the European Economic Area - the EU plus Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein - qualified to do the job.

Many overseas doctors - who came to the country when there was a shortage of doctors - face losing their jobs when their contracts come up for renewal.

The BMA says the NHS is fast losing its reputation as a fair employer.

The Department of Health said it is considering its guidance on migrants undergoing training in the NHS but there are currently no plans for a change in the rules.

New schools

The High Court did find that the government had failed to consult the medical profession and had not followed the right equal opportunities procedures, but it said this did not render the changes to rules and guidance unlawful.

It noted that the changes were prompted by the prospect of UK medical school graduates facing unemployment.

Between 2001 and 2004, four new medical schools were established in England. Since 1997, there has been a 56% increase in UK medical school intake.

One of those affected by the changes is Dr Nimit Shah, a locum registrar at Leicester Royal Infirmary who arrived in the UK five years ago.

"I won't be shortlisted. I won't be considered for the job," he said. "Which means that I will have to go back to India or look for some other alternative. It's having quite a toll on me and my family."

Dr Edwin Borman, of the BMA, said: "It's meant that doctors coming from abroad have not been able to plan adequately with regard to their career. Many have been stuck with big mortgages and no career prospects."

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