London, Nov 9 (UNI) Indian doctors on Highly Skilled Migrants Programme (HSMP) visas in the UK should be treated on par with their European counterparts, a court here today ruled.
A High Court bench comprising Lord Justice Sedley, Lord Justice Maurice Kay and Lord Justice Rimer gave the landmark ruling on a petition by the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO), challenging a ''discriminatory'' advice by Department of Health to National Health Service (NHS) employers.
According to the advice employers would have to prove that the qualifications and skills of doctors employed under the HSMP were not available among European and British candidates.
Even if the candidate satisfies the above condition, the employer would have to apply for work permits for hiring him.
The court rejected the advice as ''illegal''.
An elated Dr Raman Lakshman, Vice Chair for Policy for BAPIO said, ''We are absolutely delighted. This is a truly happy Diwali for thousands of doctors who have been through 18 months of unimaginable stress.'' ''Doctors on the HSMP came to the UK on the understanding they are required here and will be treated fairly. This judgment means that these International Medical Graduates can expect to be treated on merit for the 2008 recruitment process and onwards,'' he added.
Calling it a landmark victory for International Medical Graduates, Dr Satheesh Mathew, Vice Chair BAPIO (Operations), said ''The court has found not only that the Home Office did not carry out a Race Impact Assessment but also the Department of Health gave incorrect guidance to NHS employers on the way these doctors are to be treated.'' ''This judgement will mean that Indian doctors and other International medical graduates in the UK will not have to pay the price for the poor workforce management of the Department of Health,'' he added.
BAPIO president Ramesh Mehta, said ''We see BAPIO's role as one of advocacy for international medical graduates and ethnic minority doctors and also an organisation that will support these doctors both at time of difficulty and to achieve clinical and professional excellence.'' Dr Buddhdev Pandya OBE, Corporate Advisor to BAPIO, said he was overjoyed by the ruling. He had been instrumental in setting up BAPIO Action Limited, a limited company set up specifically to look into legal avenues for unfair treatment of doctors from the Indian subcontinent.
BAPIO was set up in 1998 and represents the interests of about 25,000 doctors from the Indian subcontinent who work in the NHS.