Recently qualified GPs are receiving deportation letters soon after completing their medical training, the professional development vice chair of the RCGP has told MPs today.
New doctors are ‘literally going from celebrating the fact that they’ve become a GP to receiving letters threatening them with deportation’, Dr Margaret Ikpoh told the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee during an evidence session on the future of general practice.
Pulse revealed in April 2022 that up to 1,000 overseas GPs could be at risk of being deported despite completing their UK training because of complex immigration rules that mean they are unable to extend their visas.
Dr Ikpoh said: ‘I’m contacted on a regular basis by trainees who despite the fact that we’ve spent £50,000 a year training them up – and perhaps in areas of deprivation, they’ve also been given funding perhaps through the targeted enhanced reimbursement scheme – and at the end of their training they’re literally going from celebrating the fact that they’ve become a GP to receiving letters threatening them with deportation.
‘That can’t be right. It has to change and we have to value them better. Because if we don’t we’ll lose them, and some are already going to places where they feel that they are more valued, and Canada is on the top of the list. I think it’s an easy win for all of us to try and sort out.’
The Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK) said it is ‘utterly appalled’ that newly-qualified GPs face deportation despite having completed their GP training in the UK and are left ‘in limbo’ with this threat ‘hanging over them’.
DAUK spokesperson Dr Dolin Bhagawati said: ‘This simply defies belief and demonstrates the siloed thinking that is present in Government when it comes to NHS staffing. These doctors, who worked during the pandemic, are ideally placed to help address the problems faced by a dramatically understaffed GP service currently.
‘Yet the Government’s immigration stance runs counter to alleviating this simple immigration issue. A Parliamentary Bill to give Indefinite Leave to Remain to all NHS workers that worked during the pandemic has been repeatedly kicked into the long grass. Despite being a simple measure to implement, the Government have chosen to embrace foolish bureaucratic madness rather than take measures to address a crippling NHS shortage.’
DAUK co-chair Dr Ellen Welch added: ‘We are short of thousands of GPs in the UK and desperately need these doctors to stay and work in the NHS.
‘If the Government is serious about bolstering the workforce then they need to take immediate action to ensure these doctors are not deported and are granted indefinite leave to remain to use their skills within our crumbling health service.’
Pulse exclusively revealed earlier this year that trainee GPs were at risk of deportation.
Home Office rules state that foreign 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.
Health Education England (HEE) told Pulse earlier this year that it was not able to say how many international GP trainees would be affected, but said there were around 1,000 trainees on visas which expired by the end of March 2023.
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.
The Home Office said it was working with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to try to increase the number of GP practices with licences to sponsor newly-qualified trainees.
A ‘staggering’ BMA survey recently found one in eight GP trainees will choose not to become GPs in future.
The RCGP urged the Government to ensure that international medical graduates (IMG) who qualify as GPs in the UK are given indefinite leave to remain.