Thousands of Indian doctors working in the National Health Service (NHS) are 'deeply distressed' and dismayed by conclusions of a new authoritative study that questions the standards and competency of medical professionals who qualified outside Britain.
Amidst concerns over patient safety, the study published in the British Medical Journal last week claims that half of foreign doctors would not be able to practise in Britain if they were subjected to the same level of scrutiny as Britain-trained doctors.
The study commissioned by the apex General Medical Council (GMC) has revived concerns in the context of figures that indicate that most doctors who are struck off the medical register or suspended following complaints are trained abroad, mostly in India, Nigeria and Egypt.
Rajan Madhok, chairman of British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO), said: “We are deeply disturbed with the commissioning of the study, the fundamental premise of the researchers and the many grossly misleading assumptions proffered as conclusions.”
Expressing dismay over the questions about competency and standards, BAPIO called for a "full independent review" of the role of international medical graduates in the NHS. Indian doctors are the largest group in the NHS of those who qualified outside the European Union.
Ramesh Mehta, president of BAPIO, said: "We may be of Indian origin but we are foremost NHS doctors and want the NHS to be the best; this blame game is not helpful…We must drive standards up, but we need objective evidence and fair processes".
Currently, 68,116 doctors in the NHS gained their primary medical qualifications in countries outside Britain and the European Union. They include over 25,000 doctors who qualified in India and later passed the necessary tests to qualify to work in the NHS.
The study said that tests taken by foreign doctors who want to work in the NHS should be made harder to pass to bring them in line with UK standards, after researchers found a "performance gap" between international and UK medical graduates.
GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said more needed to be done to help foreign doctors coming into the UK, and to recognise the difficulties they face with different social and cultural attitudes.
Dickson praised foreign doctors who do a "fantastic service" to the NHS, but added that there needed to be a focus on training more doctors in the UK and less of a reliance on those from overseas.