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BMA: NHS must retain overseas staff rather than end reliance on ‘foreign’ staff


By Jess Hacker
21 June 2021

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The NHS must hire and keep doctors and healthcare workers from overseas if it is to navigate the care backlog caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the BMA has said.

According to The Sunday Times (20 June), Dido Harding, Baroness of Winscombe, said she would end the NHS’s reliance on foreign doctors and nurses if she were to take over as NHS head.

Baroness Harding, who last week formally applied to replace the NHS’s current chief executive Simon Stevens, is believed to want to challenge the idea that it is ‘better to import medical professionals from overseas’.

In response to the article, BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said that non-UK doctors, nurses and healthcare workers continue to play an ‘invaluable’ and ‘critical role’ in supporting the NHS during the pandemic.

‘With serious staffing shortages within the NHS, we must be doing all we can to attract and retain hardworking doctors and healthcare workers both from overseas and within the UK as that is what is needed to care for patients amid an enormous backlog of care,’ he said.

He added that the NHS ‘would not survive’ without the contribution of overseas healthcare workers, and that those staff members should be celebrated.

‘Their contribution is every bit as integral as that of UK healthcare workers,’ he said.

The BMA said recently that, including estimates for missing data, the elective treatment waiting list increased to 5.12 million in April, a record high.

Earlier this year, the NHS Confederation suggested that better communication between primary and secondary care could tackle the backlog.

The backlog for non-urgent procedures stood at 4.5 million people at the end of 2020, it said as its estimates indicated that the treatment backlog could reach 6.9 million appointments by the end of 2021.

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