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Last Updated: Friday, 11 February, 2005, 10:31 GMT
Unemployment for overseas doctors
Image of doctor and patient
Applicants are outstripping job vacancy numbers
Junior doctors from overseas wanting to work in the UK can expect long periods of unemployment, warn experts.

Surveys show supply is outstripping demand, despite the NHS' continued reliance on overseas recruitment to make up a third of its junior staff.

Peter Trewby of the Royal College of Physicians says doctors should be warned that passing UK entrance exams will not guarantee a job.

The Department of Health said it was aware of the problem and addressing it.

Long waits

In early 2004, the General Medical Council surveyed doctors who passed the tests they required to work in the UK.

Overall, 77% obtained employment within six months of passing the test and 93% within 12 months.

The tragedy is that the countries that these doctors come from are in far greater need of their skills
Dr Peter Trewby

According to the British Medical Journal (BMJ) Careers website, there are 210 applicants for each junior doctor advertisement in the UK, with eight recent jobs attracting more than 1,000 applications.

Writing in the BMJ, Dr Trewby criticised the NHS for having no system for matching graduates to vacancies, nor any way of informing those thinking of coming to the UK of current job competition.

Dr Trewby, who is chair of the RCP's working group on international medical graduates, said the drive to recruit from overseas more senior doctors, who are in short supply in the UK, had meant more juniors were also coming forward.

"The tragedy is that the countries that these doctors come from are in far greater need of their skills.

"Yet what is actually happening is they are spending longer periods of time here unemployed, filling in application forms for six months or a year or sometimes even longer."

No jobs

The RCP would like to publish waiting times and applicant numbers for job vacancies to inform doctors from overseas who might be considering applying for work in the UK.

The GMC said its website provided information on the issues doctors should be aware of before they come to the UK.

GMC president Professor Sir Graeme Catto said: "The message that if you do get the qualifications there may not be a job for you in this country is getting through."

Dr Ramdip Rae, a surgeon in India who is due to take his UK entrance exams next month, said there was still a big incentive to sit the exams even if there was no job at the end of it.

"UK degrees...still are given much importance in India, both by patients and medical colleagues so, academically, it does matter."

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "The Department is addressing these issues and there is already a great deal of information available to doctors on obtaining their first post in the NHS, which highlights that there is considerable competition for these posts.

"This will help them make an informed decision about whether to come to the UK or not."

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