NHS campaigners have welcomed the expected expansion of training schemes for overseas doctors, but say the proposals do not go far enough to undo the staffing shortage caused by Brexit.
The government is expected to expand its Medical Training Initiative (MTI) in an effort to increase the number of non-EU doctors working in the UK through the scheme, according to the Guardian.
Currently 1,500 doctors per year, primarily from sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia, can train for 24 months in UK hospitals.
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Speaking to talkRADIO, the founder of campaign group NHS Against Brexit, Mike Galsworthy, said: “Of course it is a good thing to open up more exchange programs, but it is the kind of thing our government should have done years ago.
“It is just being done as a reaction to the fact that we are chasing off EU nurses and doctors."
Mr Galsworthy claimed issuing visas to non-EU doctors and nurses could lead to an administrative headache for the NHS, and said the government needed to make guarantees to EU medical staff already working in the country.
'One step forward after two steps backward'
He added: “I’m glad we are now finally seeing a little bit of common sense, but I’m afraid it is one step forward after two steps backward.”
A spokesperson for the Royal College of Physicians, an independent organisation dedicated to raising healthcare standards, said: “If true, this is great news. We have been lobbying for this as the NHS desperately needs more doctors.”
The Royal College of Physicians has previously lobbied for an extension to the MTI, calling for additional visas and asking that the scheme is extended to non-priority countries such as Australia.
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A Home Office spokesperson told talkRADIO the MTI was subject to regular reviews, but did not confirm whether there were plans to extend the scheme.
They added: “We are absolutely clear that these roles are not designed to fill substantive vacancies, but offer a valuable training opportunity for doctors from overseas.”
Chair of the British Medical Association's Junior Doctor Committee, Dr Jeeves Wijesuriya, said the expansion of the MTI would be a "welcome boost to the NHS workforce".
He told talkRADIO: "Given the significant shortfall of doctors which looks set to worsen in the aftermath of Brexit, the expansion of the Medical Training Initaitve would be a welcome boost to the NHS workforce.
"This type of progress should it come to fruition must not be the exception but the rule, as now more than ever we must do all we can to fix the recruitment crisis that threatens the future of the NHS.”
Words: Cormac Connelly-Smith