Nearly 37,000 people have signed an online petition demanding that the Home Office halt moves to deport British-trained doctor Luke Anthony Ong, just months before he qualifies as a GP.
The BMA said the Home Office stance on the matter was ‘incomprehensible’ under the circumstances.
Dr Ong moved to the UK from Singapore ten years ago to train as a doctor and applied for indefinite leave to remain in September 2017, only to be refused by the Home Office for being 18 days late.
Dr Ong claims that the first visa appointment he could get was 18 days after his extended student visa expired.
He passed his exams and completed three years of GP training at Tameside hospital in Manchester. He is now unable to complete five months of on-the-job training to become a GP because of problems with his visa.
Dr Ong appealed the Home Office’s decision with an appeal which was heard by the First Tier tribunal. The tribunal’s Judge Lloyd ruled in favour of Dr Ong in an appeal hearing.
The Home Office is now seeking to overturn Judge Lloyd’s ruling in a further appeal at a high immigration court.
Dr Ong said in his petition page: ‘At a time when the NHS is struggling to train and recruit GPs, I find it absolutely ridiculous that I am on the cusp of becoming a GP, but potentially facing deportation if the Home Office press ahead with their appeal.
‘I have given the best years of my life to the NHS, toiling relentlessly through nights and weekends for many years, paying my taxes and contributing to wider society – sadly all this counts for nothing, and the Home Office are now treating me as an illegal immigrant, having confiscated my passports and University Degree.’
The Home Office said: ‘All visa applications are considered in line with immigration rules and on the evidence provided. Mr Ong’s case is currently under appeal and it would be inappropriate to comment further whilst legal proceedings are ongoing.’
The case comes as the UK Government plans to spend £100,000 on private recruitment firms to bring in 3,000 overseas GPs to fill gaps in the system.
BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘This situation, in which a doctor who has committed the last ten years of his life studying, training and serving in the NHS faces deportation over what appears to be an honest oversight, beggars belief at a time when the government is prepared to spend millions recruiting GPs from abroad.
‘The Government knows there is a serious shortage of GPs in England, with too few medical students opting for the specialism, while experienced doctors reduce their hours or retire early – something which is having a negative effect on patient care.The Home Office must therefore move away from this hostile culture and any approach to immigration rules for doctors needs to be flexible and – ultimately – practical. For them to seemingly take such a strict stand in this case is utterly incomprehensible.’
RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘We need every single appropriately-trained doctor we can get working in UK general practice, so it makes absolutely no sense that a GP trainee who has studied medicine here – at great national investment – and chosen to become a family doctor here, is being pushed out instead of being welcomed with open arms.
‘We understand the need for well-defined rules on immigration, but these need to be intelligently applied. This really is a tragic example of bureaucracy getting in the way of common sense.
‘We have previously raised concerns with the home secretary about the impact of visa rules on the GP workforce, and we’ll be writing again in the strongest possible terms, urging her to intervene in this case and to ensure similar instances are not repeated.’