The NHS’s reputation is at risk if hospitals do not clarify which foreign doctors they can recruit under new immigration legislation, according to the British Medical Association (BMA).
A recent change in regulations means NHS trusts have been barred from recruiting junior doctors from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) if there are suitable candidates from the UK or the EEA.
The BMA said that overseas doctors were facing discrimination because trusts were misinterpreting the law. Doctors who have refugee status, or who are on the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme, have reported problems finding posts, even though the new rules should not apply to them, the BMA said.
Dr Edwin Borman, chairman of the BMA’s International Committee, said the NHS was rapidly losing its international reputation as a fair employer.
“Some trusts are effectively telling doctors not to bother applying for jobs if they’re from outside Europe, even if they’ve worked in the UK for years, or qualified from a UK medical school,” he said. “It’s shabby, it’s unfair, and in some cases it may be discriminatory.”
Some posts have been advertised on the basis that they will not attract a work permit for doctors from outside the EEA.
The BMA has written to the Commission of Racial Equality requesting an opinion on whether this amounts to discrimination.