Press release: A solution to doctor recruitment shortage denied

[6 October 2016]

dfnhs-press-logoDoctors for the NHS has learned that the government is blocking any further expansion of a scheme which would solve the problem with shortages in doctor numbers without threatening net migration or disadvantaging doctors from resource-poor countries – the very week Jeremy Hunt pledges to make the NHS “Self sufficient” in doctors. [1]

Dr Eric Watts is Chair of Doctors for the NHS and a consultant haematologist:

“For all sorts of reasons we are short of doctors. Mr Hunt has acknowledged this and put in place plans for an increase in medical students. However it will be at least 10 years before these graduates reach positions of responsibility by which time we will have lost the EU graduates and it is likely our need for doctors will have increased further.

“If we are to maintain services international medical graduates must continue to be recruited. This government seems determined to block a scheme which does so without increasing net migration . The Medical Training Initiative scheme is ideally placed to provide international graduates. This sidesteps the government’s concern about increasing net migration and sidesteps the accusation of hoovering up the best graduates from resource-poor countries.

“The scheme uses the Tier 5 visa which restricts graduates to 2 years in the UK. Graduates are recruited to training posts so they receive supervised training in the UK and return home at the end of 2 years with new competencies and colleagues: and during that time they serve in the NHS. It is a win-win situation.

“But there is a cap of 750 on the number of visas that can be issued. Just before Mr Hunt announced the need for further doctors in the NHS, peremptorily and without warning, DH and UKVI blocked with immediate effect any further visas. There are now doctors who have been appointed to posts, have handed in their notice back home and paid for their flights, but who suddenly cannot come. There are trusts awaiting doctors whose rotas now cannot be maintained.

“The government must decide which is more important: its obsession with migration or the health of its people. It should remove the cap on the number of Tier 5 visas issued as part of the medical training initiative scheme.”


[This resulted in several enquiries from national press outlets.]

Editor’s Notes

Doctors for the NHS (DFNHS) was formed in March 2015 by the NHS Consultants’ Association re-naming itself and asking GPs and medical trainees to join. It has the explicit aim of countering marketisation [1,2] of the NHS by gathering the already impressive evidence (eg, on health funding – see OECD figures below); pointing to its ill effects on NHS services and founding principles; and campaigning widely to stop then repair the damage before it is too late and cannot be reversed.


DFNHS’s press officer is Alan Taman:

07870 757 309

[email protected]


Facebook: DoctorsForTheNHS


OECD expenditure figures

These figures give the lie to the arguments that we can’t afford a publicly funded NHS as other countries spend more public money on health services than we do.

We are 15th overall in total spend and 13th in public spending USA and 11 European countries spend more.


[1] Davis, J., Lister, J. and Wrigely, D. (2015) NHS For Sale. London: Merlin Press.

Leys, C. and Player, S. (2011) The Plot Against the NHS. Pontypool: Merlin

Lister, J. (2008) The NHS After 60: For Patients or Profits? London: Middlesex University Press

Owen, D. (2014) The Health of the Nation: The NHS in Peril. York: Methuen, Chapter 4.

Player, S. (2013) ‘Ready for market’. In NHS SOS ed by Davis, J. and Tallis, R. London: Oneworld, pp.38-61.


[2] The belief that ‘competition is always best’ does not work when applied to healthcare. A comprehensive and universal health service is best funded by public donation, which has been shown to be far more efficient overall than private-insurance healthcare models

[Davis, J., Lister, J. and Wrigley, D. (2015) NHS For Sale. London: Merlin Press. Chapters 2 and 8.

Lister, J. (2013) Health Policy Reform: global health versus private profit. Libri: Faringdon.

Pollock, A. and Price, D. (2013) In NHS SOS, ed by Davis, J. and Tallis, R. Oneworld: London, 174.]


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