The UK government is set to relax its immigration laws in a bid for more doctors to come to Britain and help soothe the strain of a lack of doctors.
As it stands, under the medical training initiative (MTI), 1,500 foreign doctors are allowed to come and work under NHS but ministers have agreed to allow that to rise anywhere up to 3000.
They added that the doctors can also stay for a year longer, up from two to three, under the new plans.
The move could be suggested in the NHS long-term plan, due to be revealed in mid-December.
The news comes after expert warned the NHS is set to face a more challenging winter than last year.
NHS-wide shortage of medics is so acute, especially in hospitals, that they have to lift the cap on the number who can come in under the MTI, even at the risk of provoking a row about immigration.
In discussion with senior doctors, the Health secretary said, he “fully appreciates” the depth of the NHS’s inability to recruit and retain enough medics and the impact it is increasingly having on patient care, for example forcing some A&E units to close temporarily or permanently.
The NHS in England is short of 9,337 doctors, according to the latest official figures on staffing, which were published on Thursday by the regulator NHS Improvement. Although that is down from the 11,616 vacancies it had three months ago NHS bosses say that staffing problems remain their biggest headache and are compromising the quality of care they can provide.
Ministers have been persuaded that expanding the MTI will not prompt a backlash because doctors coming to Britain that way do not count towards the immigration total. That is because the MTI counts as an exchange scheme that shares knowledge, experience and best practice.
The young doctors are trainees who spend two years learning from an NHS consultant, and help fill medical rotas in hospitals, before returning to their home countries, which benefit from their enhanced skills.
It is certainly a good news for the non-EU doctors who want to come to UK and plan to practice here.
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