BMA and RCGP welcome call to put all doctors on workforce shortage list

All doctors should be added to the national 'shortage occupation list' amid 'overwhelming evidence of a UK-wide shortage', government advisors have warned.

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul (Photo: JH Lancy)
BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul (Photo: JH Lancy)

The call has been welcomed by the BMA and the RCGP, which have said repeatedly that doctors should be added to the list.

In a review of the shortage occupation list published this week, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) backed the inclusion of medical practitioners because 'there is sufficient and overwhelming evidence of a UK-wide shortage'.

The committee said medical practitioners 'rank fairly high' on its list of shortage indicators. It acknowledged that 'many of those who responded to the call for evidence admit that migration is not
the sole nor the long-term solution' - but said it could help to ease problems with the NHS workforce in the short term.

NHS workforce

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: 'The BMA is delighted that such a respected body as the MAC has listened to the BMA and proposed a bold, but much needed, recommendation to place all doctors on the shortage occupation list.

'This welcome proposal is a victory for the BMA and for the sustained lobbying by the association to address the chronic workforce shortages which are undermining the delivery of patient care across the NHS.

'Around 10% of doctors working in the UK are from the European Union and it is very clear that overseas doctors have always made a valuable contribution to the success of our health service and their contribution is needed now more than ever.'

Long-term plan

Dr Nagpaul said the government 'must now move swiftly to implement the MAC's proposals' - but warned that it 'also needs to ensure that this is only the first step in bringing together a coherent, well-funded workforce plan that in the long term addresses the damaging pressures on our NHS'.

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: 'The college has long been campaigning for GPs to be added to the shortage occupation list, so we’re delighted to see that this is now being recommended by the MAC, along with the inclusion of all other medical professionals.

'GP workload is escalating both in terms of volume and complexity, but GP numbers are falling and whilst we currently have more family doctors in training than ever before, it takes at least 10 years to train a GP and we simply cannot wait that long.'

Inclusion on the shortage occupation list means - among other benefits - that professions are prioritised in applications for tier 2 work visas if demand nears the 20,700 annual limit.

However, medical practitioners are currently exempt from the cap on tier 2 visas - and the MAC report notes that the although the home secretary has said this is temporary, he has said 'he has no intention to reverse this decision'.

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