UK welcomes 51 Indian doctors to ease doctors' shortage
Faced with an acute shortage of doctors, several deaneries in Britain have embarked on a recruitment drive in India, with the Wales deanery all set to welcome 51 medical professionals from the country to its various hospitals.
In Wales alone, there is a shortage of 400 doctors, which has sparked fears that medical services will have to be curtailed if qualified doctors are not appointed to the vacant posts.
The doctors recruited in India will hold middle grade positions.
India has long been a source of medical professionals for Britain, but the recruitment of Indian doctors was reduced to a trickle after 2006 when tighter rules prevented doctors from non-European Union from taking up training jobs in the NHS.
The 51 Indian doctors have been recruited by the Wales deanery on a two-year contract, which will not lead to settlement.
Leona Walsh, who led the recruitment drive and is performance manager at Cardiff University's school of postgraduate medicine and dental education, said: "All the doctors we interviewed said the reason they were after these jobs was because of the experience of working abroad."
"More than 40 per cent of doctors working in Welsh hospitals are from overseas, which is a very large contingent. I think most patients are quite used to seeing doctors from other cultures and backgrounds within Welsh hospitals."
The first contingent of Indian doctors is expected to arrive in Wales in August and will be posted at various hospitals there.
The 51 doctors have two years' experience in their chosen speciality in India.
They have been recruited from a number of specialities, including paediatrics, A and E, general surgery, trauma and orthopaedics and obstetrics and gynaecology.
They will complete the necessary exams to ensure they have the right qualifications to work in Wales and register with the General Medical Council.
A Welsh Assembly Government spokesman said: "We are working with health boards, the Wales Deanery and the BMA to find ways to recruit and retain doctors in Wales and promoting Wales as a place to live and work."
He added: "As part of this, the Wales Deanery, along with a number of deaneries in the UK, has been to India recently to recruit middle-grade doctors. Fifty-one doctors were identified for Wales and were successful at interview. The necessary arrangements for them to begin their employment here are currently being made."
Since 2006, the tighter rules have led to an acute shortage of junior doctors, leading to some local hospitals closing down specialities and emergency divisions.
An Indian doctor holding a senior position in the NHS told PTI: "Many Indian doctors who were training here returned home when immigration rules were tightened in 2006, and media reports in India about the rules stopped many from coming here."
He said even though some deaneries were now recruiting from India, not many Indian doctors would be interested because immigration rules prevented them from staying for more than two years.
This short period would prevent them from having a career in the NHS, he said.
Given the acute shortage of doctors, the Department of Health is reported to be in favour of relaxing visa norms for Indian and other non-EU doctors, but immigration policy is the domain of the Home Office, which so far has not indicated any possibility of change.
The Home Office is currently headed by Conservative leader Theresa May (Home secretary) and Damian Green (Immigration minister).
Both have committed themselves to the coalition agreement's policy of imposing an annual limit on professionals migrating from non-EU countries.
In a statement, a Department of Health spokeswoman said: "The Department and UKBA (UK Border Agency) worked together to ensure the immigration system struck a balance between providing valuable training opportunities for foreign doctors without preventing UK-trained doctors from progressing in their careers."