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Wednesday, 27 February, 2002, 11:19 GMT
Heart pioneer named 'NHS envoy'
The UK needs more surgeons urgently
Heart surgeon Sir Magdi Yacoub has been selected to spearhead a government recruitment drive for overseas doctors.

Sir Magdi, an internationally-renowned figure in his field, has the job of tempting consultants from other countries to come and fill vacancies in the NHS in England.

Ministers are hoping to recruit as many as 450 specialists in certain specialties from abroad over the next three years in their efforts to cut waiting times for operations in the UK.

We are committed to recruit more doctors into the NHS as quickly as possible

Tony Blair
Their ambitious targets for expanding consultant numbers cannot be met in time simply by UK-based training schemes.

Sir Magdi will help to promote the "International Fellowship Scheme", under which overseas doctors will be able to come to work in the NHS and carry out research.

He was forced to retire from NHS operations after exceeding the age limit for surgeons last year.

'Expressions of interest'

His appointment was announced by Prime Minister Tony Blair on Wednesday.

Mr Blair said: "I am delighted that Sir Magdi has agreed to take up the role of Special Envoy for the NHS.

"We are committed to recruit more doctors into the NHS as quickly as possible.

"Fellowship doctors will work alongside their British counterparts and help ensure the health service can expand and modernise as rapidly as possible."

The government's overseas recruitment campaign was launched in September - and is already claiming 2,500 "expressions of interest" from overseas doctors, and 600 firm applications.

Good package

Visiting consultants would be paid at NHS rates - with a salary of between 52,640 and 68,505 a year. They would also be paid a relocation allowance, accommodation expenses and a pension rebate at the end of their fellowship.

Adverts will be placed in medical journals in Australia, Canada, USA, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Ireland, New Zealand, Sweden and Switzerland next month.

They are seeking specialists in heart and lung surgery, histopatholgoy, radiology and psychiatry - areas in which the NHS will have particular difficulty filling vacancies.

The profession broadly supports the scheme.

James Johnson, chairman of the Joint Consultants' Committee, said: "Least year we saw a very welcome level of consultant expansion but as a result many specialties are running out of trainees.

"It takes a long time to set up additional training programmes and get doctors through them.

"In the meantime, the Department of Health's international clinical fellowship scheme will provide a number of fully trained consultants of high quality."

See also:

07 Nov 01 | Health
Pledge on NHS overseas recruits
27 Feb 02 | Health
Profile: Sir Magdi Yacoub
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