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Terror checks may hit recruitment

A Government crackdown to prevent terrorists infiltrating the NHS may cause a recruitment crisis if, as is being speculated, thousands of overseas doctors are forced to apply for work permits before being allowed to work in the UK.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has ordered counter-terrorism minister Sir Alan West to review recruitment checks on overseas staff working in the NHS, including GP registrars from outside the EU.

It follows the terrorist attack on Glasgow airport and attempted bomb attack in London and the subsequent arrest of several hospital doctors working in the UK. Although expressing horror that members of the medical profession may have been involved in terrorism, the BMA fears the NHS recruitment process could now be thrown into chaos.

Approximately 90,000 doctors in the UK qualified overseas, including an estimated 6,000 who are working as GPs. Until now foreign doctors from outside the EU working in a training grade have been covered by 'permit-free' postgraduate training rules, qualifying to work in the UK on a points scoring system – meaning there is no need for their employers to obtain a work permit.

It is understood that making work permits necessary for overseas GP registrars, as they are for salaried GPs and hospital consultants, is one of the proposals under urgent consideration.

A senior BMA figure, who did not want to be named, said: 'Bearing in mind the Home Office's recent bungling track record, it's easy to see how this could turn into a bureaucratic nightmare and slow up the recruitment process. We must remember that overseas doctors have been a vital factor in the successful running of the NHS.'

Dr Edwin Borman, chair of the BMA's international committee, said: 'It may have implications for the process.'

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