Doctors to fight ruling on Highly Skilled Migrant Programme that could spark NHS recruitment crisis

Hundreds of doctors have launched a campaign against a High Court ruling that backed changes to the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme. The doctors claim the changes could trigger a massive staffing crisis across the NHS.

The court found that the government’s new points system, which disregards any previous UK work experience and does not give priority points for GPs, did not constitute unlawful discrimination.

About 450 doctors signed a petition last week and are seeking a judicial review of the decision, claiming the changes will force them to abandon the NHS and leave the UK.

A spokesman for the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, which represents 10,000 migrants, said the revised Highly Skiled Migrant Programme regulations would have a “devastating and profound impact”.

“We keep hearing about the massive skills shortages in the NHS but the government won’t let us work here under the new regulations,” he told Personnel Today.

Mikhail Spivakov, a spokesman for the campaign group Voice of Britain’s Skilled Immigrants, said the decision could have repercussions for the UK’s overstretched health system as a whole.

The NHS attracted criticism last month when it emerged that vast amounts were being spent flying in doctors from other EU countries to cover GP shortages.

Dr Edwin Borman, chair of the British Medical Association International Committee, said the government’s treatment of overseas doctors was disappointing.

“They were given the impression that they’d be able to contribute to the NHS, and spend their whole careers in the UK, then the rules changed overnight and many were forced to leave,” she said.

The new regulations will cause problems in many other professions, including IT, according to Chris Magrath, head of immigration and employment at law firm Magrath & Co.

But Mark Sedwill, director of UK Visas, a joint Home and Foreign Office directorate, said the changes were part of “the continuing process to meet new challenges and requirements”.

Changes in brief

Successful applicants must now score at least 75 points for:

  • Past earnings: dependent on how much, when and where it was earned.
  • Age: under 27 = 20 points 28 or 29 = 10 points 30 or 31 = 5 points
  • UK experience: 5 extra points for UK earnings or a year’s degree-level study at a UK-based institution.
  • Qualifications: BA, BSc = 30 points MA = 35pts PhD = 50pts eligible MBA = 75pts.

Points are no longer available for:

  • Work experience.
  • Achievement in the applicant’s chosen field.
  • Partner’s achievements.
  • Priority points for GPs.

Proof of English language ability is now mandatory

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