All doctor posts, including those of GPs, are set to be given fast-track immigration status amid growing shortages, it has been announced.
The government’s Migration Advisory Committee said there was “sufficient and overwhelming” evidence of a UK-wide shortage of doctors.
If the proposals are accepted, medicine as whole will be listed as a shortage occupation, giving immigrant doctors a range of rights not available to others.
Until now only specific specialties and senior grades have been placed on the shortage list, including consultant posts in emergency medicine and clinical radiology.
Medical radiologists will also be added to the shortage lists while nursing will stay on it.
The MAC found that in two years the number of Tier 2 applications for doctor recruitment more than doubled, from 1,893 to 3,987. Its analysis of doctor immigration found that nearly half come from India or Pakistan.
The Royal College of GPs claimed the proposal as a victory, Chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said she was “delighted” at the change of heart on GPs.
She said: “Whilst we currently have more family doctors in training than ever before, it takes at least ten years to train a GP and we simply cannot wait that long.
“We welcome any GP – or other medical professional – from the EU or further afield who wants to work in UK general practice, as long as they meet the rigorous standards set by the College, General Medical Council and other bodies to ensure safe clinical practice, to contribute to delivering care to more than a million patients a day.
“Indeed, thousands of overseas GPs and members of our wider practice team already work in NHS general practice, and we are incredibly grateful for their skills and expertise.”
She added: “Making it easier for appropriately trained medical professionals to come to the UK and work here is imperative to the future of our workforce and profession, and we hope our long-fought addition to the shortage occupation list will help make the process simpler and more straightforward.”
British Medical Association chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul also expressed delight and called on the Government to act fast to accept the recommendations.
He said: “This welcome proposal is a victory for the BMA and for the sustained lobbying by the Association to address the chronic workforce shortages which are undermining the delivery of patient care across the NHS.
“Around 10% of doctors working in the UK are from the European Union and its very clear that overseas doctors have always made a valuable contribution to the success of our health service and their contribution is needed now more than ever.
“We are also pleased that the Advisory Committee has also acknowledged that as well as putting all doctors on the shortage occupation list, it will take more effective workforce planning and greater efforts to increase the numbers of people wanting to work in the health profession and stop those wanting to leave in order to meet growing patient demand.”