BMA seeks specialty immigration exemptions
27 November 2012
The BMA has highlighted three hard-to-recruit UK specialties that should be open to applications from overseas doctors.
Psychiatry, emergency medicine and clinical academic medicine should be considered shortage occupations, the association has told the independent MAC (Migration Advisory Committee), which advises ministers on such issues.
The BMA also calls for consideration to be given to creating a separate shortage occupation list for Wales and Northern Ireland, to address recruitment and retention issues unique to those nations.
Scotland already has a separate shortage occupation list, and the BMA believes similar devolved-nation lists could help workforce planning.
The BMA makes these points in its written response to the MAC document Call for Evidence: Shortage Occupation Lists for the UK and Scotland (pdf). The MAC is drawing up a list of recommendations for ministers.
Effective planning essential
BMA director of professional activities Vivienne Nathanson writes: ‘In UK medicine, effective workforce planning is essential; this must be a key consideration of the MAC when considering shortage occupations within the medical profession. Psychiatry, emergency medicine and clinical academic medicine provide useful examples of the complexities of workforce planning in the NHS.’
The BMA is particularly concerned about shortages in psychiatry core training years 1-3, while gaps also exist in specialty training years 4-9.
Emergency medicine also continues to have recruitment and retention issues particularly in training grades, but consideration needs to be given to the reasons why, the BMA says.
‘Simply filling vacancies with the use of the shortage occupation list does not remedy the issues of job satisfaction and appropriate remuneration for antisocial hours,’ Dr Nathanson says.
The BMA adds that clinical academic medicine has unique workforce needs, and its shortages across the board are highlighted in the Medical Schools Council report A survey of Staffing Levels of Medical Clinical Academics in UK Medical Schools as at 31 July 2011.
Lack of symmetry
Setting out its arguments for separate devolved-nation shortage lists, the BMA highlights how removing a specialty from the UK list might be detrimental to a particular nation. For example, Northern Ireland has a shortage of radiologists but this is not mirrored elsewhere in the UK.
In any case, any removal of a medical specialty from a list after two years must consider the impact on all UK nations, the BMA says.
The association also insists that doctors entering the UK to fill shortage occupations must be made aware of visa restrictions.
‘The government has a moral obligation to ensure that doctors coming to fill shortage occupations are aware of the limitations related to the visa requirements, and are informed of these limitations in advance,’ Dr Nathanson writes.