London, May 1 (UNI) Fears over new immigration rules targeting overseas doctors, may lead to many medical practitioners quitting the UK and could have ''serious implications'' for Scotland.
The Scottish National Party raised its fears after learning that 13 per cent of the country's medical workforce had qualified outside Britain. It is estimated that up to 15,000 doctors, mostly from the Indian subcontinent, are being trained in British hospitals to become specialists.
The British Medical Association (BMA) also has concerns over new rules which would give priority to UK and EU applicants. But the Scottish executive said there would not be a shortfall of doctors.
The new rules, announced by the UK Government last month, would require every doctor from outside the EU to have a work permit.
They will be entitled to a permit only if a hospital could prove that no applicant from the UK or the EU could fill the vacancy. SNP health spokeswoman Shona Robison MSP has written to Health Minister Andy Kerr on the issue. She said the General Medical Council had estimated that 13 per cent of Scotland's medical workforce was non-UK qualified.
''This could have serious implications for our NHS, which is crying out for new recruits in order to sustain services across Scotland,'' she said.
The BMA said it shared the SNP's concerns over the speed with which the new immigration rules had been introduced. Dr Graeme Eunson, chairman of the BMA's Scottish junior doctor committee, said ''There has been inadequate consultation and little concern or consideration for doctors from outwith the EU who are currently studying or working in the UK. It is important to develop a policy that bases the number of doctors coming to the country on the needs of the NHS.
''However, the way in which this was introduced is unfair and has caused a great deal of confusion and anxiety among overseas doctors currently in the UK.'' A spokeswoman said there would not be a shortfall in doctors because there was already great competition for vacancies. ''This is about bringing the immigration arrangements for doctors in line with those for other workers seeking entry to the UK," she said.
''Changes to the way Scottish medical graduates are trained, combined with greater competition for posts in other parts of the UK, means more young doctors are expected to stay in Scotland. It's expected that this will reduce the need for international recruits over time.'' UNI XC SB VC1548