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Revealed: Doctors joining Shropshire hospitals from countries where targeted recruitment is banned

By Lisa O'Brien | Shrewsbury | Health | Published:

Two out of every five new doctors who joined hospitals in Shropshire last year came from developing countries where recruitment is banned, new figures reveal today.

A leading health think tank has warned NHS trusts not to stray from ethical recruitment guidelines in the face of post-Brexit staff shortages.

But new figures have revealed a surge in medics joining the NHS nationally from a list of countries the Government says should not be actively recruited from, such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Georgia and Nigeria.

Hospital bosses in our region have defended their actions, saying the doctors were not targeted in recruitment drives and instead applied to the trusts directly – a move which is not against the government’s code of practice.

Of the 129 new doctors who joined the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH) in the 12 months to January, 51 gained their medical qualifications in countries on the restricted list, according to NHS Digital. The equates to around 40 per cent of all new recruits.

The data shows three out of 10 were also on the restricted list at Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (RJAH), near Oswestry.

Poached

The policy is intended to prevent valuable medical staff being poached from their home nations, which are often in receipt of foreign aid and may have a shortage of medics.

It does not prevent trusts from considering applications on an individual basis, as long as they are not directly targeted in recruitment drives.

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On the list, Nigeria provided the most doctors at SaTH, with 24 training there.

This was followed by Pakistan, with nine doctors, then Egypt, with seven.

Across England, the number of doctors recruited from listed countries has been steadily rising.

In 2015-16, there were 2,192 recruits – 13 per cent of doctors. By 2018-19, this had risen to 3,686, 19 per cent of the total.

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Alex Baylis, assistant director of policy at health think tank the King’s Fund, said staff shortages had been exacerbated by a ‘dramatic drop-off’ in workers coming from Europe since the Brexit vote, but warned this should not cause ethical hiring practices to fall by the wayside.

How hospitals take on doctors from banned list

Our hospitals are taking on hundreds of doctors from countries on a government restricted list.

The list has nothing to do with their expertise, but rather the desire to ensure the countries involved do not suffer a drain of resources and talent.

Alex Baylis, assistant director of policy at health think tank the King’s Fund, said: “Many NHS services are trying to find staff wherever they can, but international recruitment must be done ethically and there are codes of practice on ethical recruitment for a reason.

“It’s essential that the NHS complies with these guidelines even when they are under pressure to plug rota gaps.

“In the short-term, some NHS vacancies can only be filled by ramping up international recruitment but attracting staff from overseas must be part of a wider plan for solving the workforce crisis – a plan that makes a commitment to increasing domestic training, recruitment and retention.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said the figures could include doctors given short-term development opportunities through the Government’s Medical Training Initiative.

Defend

“This list shows countries that hospital trusts have rightly been instructed not to target with recruitment campaigns for humanitarian reasons,” she said.

“As you would expect, there is nothing to stop individuals from these nations being employed by the NHS.”

Hospitals in our region defend their actions. They say they stay within the rules and that the doctors they take on are highly skilled.

Of the 129 new doctors who joined the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH) in the 12 months to January, 51 gained their medical qualifications in countries on the restricted list, according to NHS Digital. This equates to around 40 per cent of all new recruits.

It says it has no active recruitment policy in the listed countries but that it will accept applications that come from foreign doctors. Rhia Boyode, acting workforce director at SaTH, which runs Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and Princess Royal Hospital in Telford, said: “Our employees from outside of the UK make a valuable contribution to the trust and have done so over many years.

“As a consequence we have a strong community of doctors and nurses from oversees who recommend us to their friends and family. Anyone who joins the trust from developing countries does so because they have expressed interest in SaTH on an individual basis.

“SaTH does not conduct recruitment campaigns in those countries.”

The Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital in Shropshire, which takes spinal injury patients from across the West Midlands, echoed that policy.

At RJAH, two new doctors had trained in Sri Lanka with the other coming from Syria. Sarah Sheppard, director of people at RJAH, said: “As a trust, we welcome applications from doctors from all countries, and consider them on an individual basis.”

Lisa O'Brien

By Lisa O'Brien
Senior Reporter - @lisaobrien_Star

Senior reporter based at Shropshire Star's head office in Ketley. Covering the Telford area.

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