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Pitching in for UK's intl doctors!

With a single stroke of the pen, the UK Govt has got rid of the international doctors who propped up the NHS for the last 40 years. What is alarming is that the Govt has disowned those who are already in the system and made it mandatory for them to seek work permits once their current leave runs out. Whenever the Govt contemplates a major policy change, it embarks on public consultation exercise and maintains status quo for those who are already in the system.

india Updated: Mar 11, 2006 17:51 IST

With a single stroke of the pen, the British Government has got rid of the international doctors from the job market who propped up the NHS for the last 40 years. What is alarming is that the government has disowned those who are already in the system and made it mandatory for them to seek work permits once their current leave runs out.

Whenever the government contemplates a major policy change, it embarks on public consultation exercise and maintains status quo for those who are already in the system.

The speedy and stealthy introduction of such a major policy change is akin to mass culling of birds for 'bird flu'. It is easier and cheaper to get rid of hapless international medical graduates (IMGs) from the job market rather than remedy the mess created. We cannot ignore why so many Indian doctors flock to the UK every year in spite of the risks involved. Medical education in India is a large mess. Opportunities for quality postgraduate education have dried up, become entangled in corruption and prohibitively expensive.

For example in Karnataka state, the tuition fees for post graduate training are in the range of Rs 100,000 - 300,000 per year depending on whether it is government or private college. The same was about Rs 1,000 - 10,000 ten years ago.

The tuition fees for undergraduates have also gone up exponentially in the past 10 years - more than 10 times. However in the job market, the average salary for a young doctor is still in the range of Rs 5,000 – 6,000 per month. When I spoke to some of the young doctors coming to the UK, they said that with one year's tuition fees in India, they could take PLAB exam and try their luck in UK for a few months.

If they land a job even for just six months, they can recoup their debts and make a small saving. They have to choose between devil and the deep sea.

The only long lasting solution for this is to tackle the root cause. We should improve the quality and opportunities for postgraduate medical education in India and make them affordable to the common man.

First Published: Mar 11, 2006 17:51 IST