The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has written to the Home Secretary demanding a ‘national solution’ to visa issues facing international medical graduate (IMG) trainee GPs.
RCGP chair Martin Marshall, vice chair Margaret Ikpoh and 2,607 other GPs, retired GPs and GPs in training have already signed the joint letter to Priti Patel.
Pulse had first revealed in April this year that up to 1,000 newly-qualified GPs could face removal from the country when their visa expires next year because skilled workers usually need to train for five years in the UK before getting a visa, but GP training can last three years.
The letter said the RCGP has heard from trainees who have found the whole process so stressful they decided to work in other countries or work outside of general practice.
It said: ‘We are still hearing that some IMGs are struggling and therefore we need a national solution to ensure all trainees are secure in their immigration status during the difficult transition between training and becoming a fully-fledged GP.’
National Association of Sessional GPs chair Dr Richard Fieldhouse said: ‘No sensible person would invest heavily in developing a precious resource for three years then just abandon it. Yet that’s exactly what’s happening here.’
Meanwhile, Doctors Association UK, BAPIO, BIDA, MANSAG and Bangladeshi Doctors UK have sent a joint letter to Prime Minister candidates Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss about visa delays.
Many doctors who were due to start work this month (August 2022) have been unable to due to ‘excessive prolonged delays’ in:
- issuing of Certificates of Sponsorships
- processing of visas
- issuing of Biometric Residence Permits
The letter said: ‘We know that over 5,000 applications were made to Health Education England for Certificates of Sponsorship but this will underestimate the scale of this issue as many internationally recruited doctors will be employed directly by their hospital trusts and will not be included in this figure.
‘We write to ask that these delays be addressed as a matter of the highest priority or patient safety will be compromised due to worsened short staffing.’
The House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee said last month that there should be a ‘default visa extension for six months after the international medical graduate’s expected GP training completion date, to give them time to find an appropriate employer’.
In June, the RCGP warned MPs that recently qualified GPs are receiving ‘deportation’ letters soon after completing their medical training.
Overseas doctors must work under the skilled worker visa scheme for at least five years before they can apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILTR) and this timeframe covers most specialist medical training.
But GPs usually gain their certificate of completion of training (CCT) after three years, leaving a two-year gap during which they have to secure sponsorship if they want to stay in the country when their visas run out.
NHS England had expected to be allowed to sponsor the doctors during the two-year period but could not reach an agreement with the Home Office – an outcome that has been condemned by GP representative organisations including the BMA and BAPIO.
However, the Government has said that highlighting that these GP visa concerns amounts to ‘needless scaremongering’.