Sunday, July 08, 2007

Recruiting Foreign Doctors.

The recently departed Home Secretary John Reid gave an answer on the 21st of June to a question in parliament by Lib Dem front bencher Nick Clegg:
Mr. Clegg: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what consultation was carried out with the NHS and its associated bodies prior to the implementation of the new immigration rules on how the rules would affect foreign national doctors employed by the NHS. [122182]

John Reid: On 7 November, the Government announced changes to the Highly Skilled Migrant programme (HSMP). These changes included the removal of a GP Priority category, which awarded points to GPs registered with the General Medical Council, on the strength that the increase in funding for doctors’ training has increased the number of qualified GPs available, removing the need for special arrangements to attract GPs from abroad.

The removal of the GPs provision was agreed with the Department of Health and cleared across Government.

It is not the Government’s intention to disqualify highly-skilled applicants with medical qualifications, who could still qualify
The HSMP is the scheme whereby highly qualified immigrants can be fast tracked straight through the system, which is not a bad thing as long as it doesn't entail a reduction in scrutiny. Since the terrorist attacks in Glasgow the major critics of the government's proposed reforms to the programme, including the Conservatives, the Lib Dems, Ken Livingstone and the CRE have gone rather quiet, even though the reforms don't appear to directly enhance security and the retroactive nature of them will disrupt many innocent people. However there are several questions that need to be answered:
  • Did the existing HSMP enable doctors to enter Britain without adequate screening?
  • Did any of the suspects enter Britain under this scheme?
  • Have any of the opposition parties ever suggested tightening the background checks in the existing scheme prior to the attacks?
Gordon Brown has announced a review into the scheme which suggests that it is relevant to the suspects currently in custody. The changes that the Tories and Lib Dems were opposing were not directly related to security but rather economic factors but having spent the first half of June demanding that it be made easier for foreign doctors to enter the country they are going to be hamstrung when trying to keep the government to account over their own shortcomings.

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