Business Standard

2K doctors from India to plug UK’S NHS shortage

Some from industry raise risk of brain drain


UK’s National Health Service (NHS) will recruit 2,000 doctors from India on a fast-track basis as part of an initiative to address the acute shortage of medical profession­als in the country, industry sources said.

The NHS will conduct postgradua­te training for the first batch of doctors, who then will be deployed at hospitals in Britain after 6 to 12 months of training. These doctors will be exempted from the Profession­al and Linguistic Assessment­s Board (PLAB) examinatio­n upon completion of the training programme, they said.

While the initiative is seen by some as a solution to the NHS’S doctor shortage, others expressed concerns over the potential brain drain from India’s healthcare system.

Shuchin Bajaj, an internal medicine physician from Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals, stated: “This initiative wouldn’t affect India as 2,000 is a very small number and India produces over 110,000 doctors annually. This initiative, facilitate­d by NHS hospitals does not guarantee permanent settlement, but these placements can offer valuable experience.”

“This project is indirectly funded by the government because the government does fund a lot of NHS hospitals. The initiative is independen­t of government bodies like the National Medical Council and is solely driven by hospitals. The exchange of knowledge and expertise between India and the UK is expected to benefit both nations’ healthcare systems,” Bajaj said.

Ravi Badge, an orthopaedi­c surgeon closely involved with the NHS, said the NHS has a long history of relying on doctors from overseas with almost 25 to 30 per cent of its medical workforce coming from non-uk trained doctors.

“The NHS is also investing in training its own doctors in the long term. In my opinion, this initiative will not motivate more doctors from India to go to Britain because India is growing and financiall­y it is not that lucrative anymore in Britain. The NHS is looking at cutting down on overseas recruitmen­t in the future,” he said.

Under this programme, the NHS has establishe­d training centres at major private hospitals in Indian cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, Nagpur, Gurugram, Kozhikode, Bengaluru, Chennai, Indore, and Mysuru.

“This initiative of doctors leaving India can cause brain drain. Therefore, it’s important for the Indian government to address this by ensuring ample opportunit­ies for locally trained doctors. This includes offering fair compensati­on that aligns with their skill level, allowing them to sustain their profession­al standards and uphold their desired lifestyle,” Badge said.

A lack of widespread awareness about the initiative has been noted. While hospitals in India have establishe­d training centres, the initiative’s publicity has been limited, leaving many in the medical community unaware of its existence. Bajaj attributes this to the conservati­ve approach of British institutio­ns.

“British tendencies toward modesty and conservati­ve promotion contribute to the limited awareness of this initiative. Hence, this may explain why many doctors are unaware of it,” he said.

Ajesh Raj Saksena, senior consultant surgical oncologist at Apollo Hospital, Hyderabad, said the initiative not only promises to mitigate the medical staff shortage in the UK but also enhances the skill set and exposure of Indian medical profession­als.

“This innovative pathway, enabling doctors and nurses to join the UK workforce after 6 to 12 months of training in India without the PLAB examinatio­n, marks a significan­t stride towards global healthcare collaborat­ion. Such programmes are pivotal in elevating healthcare standards globally, fostering a mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and expertise,” he said.

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