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International medical graduates: part of the solution to the NHS workforce crisis?

There is an urgent need to increase the cap on visas to allow more international medical graduates to work and train in the NHS. A recent paper published by the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine outlines how increasing the cap could help address exceptionally difficult workforce issues facing the health service.

Co-author of the paper Dr Fraz Mir, Head of School of Medicine, Health Education East of England, said: “The promise of hundreds of extra home-grown doctors will not materialise for a number of years and even then, external support will in all certainty continue to be required.”

Responding to the paper, RSM President Professor Roger Kirby said: “We need to train more doctors but that’s a long-term solution. In the interim, we need to recruit more international medical graduates."

Professor Kirby says that expanding schemes such as the Medical Training Initiative (MTI) could be a win-win.

The MTI provides the opportunity for highly qualified international medical graduates, primarily from South Asia and Africa, who have broadly similar medical training programmes to the UK, to spend up to two years in an NHS training post.

The scheme provides what the JRSM authors describe as a cost-effective and more favourable mechanism of temporarily recruiting more doctors compared to expensive locum appointments.

Professor Kirby added: “We would benefit from doctors at all levels being welcomed into the NHS, filling the gaps and training and interacting with us. But, because each placement is for two years, we wouldn’t be permanently taking doctors away from countries that need them.

“We need to consider all options to address the workforce issues in the NHS and, therefore, welcome this paper.”

Read the full paper

Listen to Professor Roger Kirby talk about the future of the NHS workforce

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