NHS staff shortages leave doctors working in a system that isn’t safe

RCP president Professor Jane Dacre wrote an open letter to The Guardian highlighting safety issues surrounding the ongoing staff shortages in the NHS.

It seems astonishing to block appropriately qualified doctors from working here when the NHS is under such pressure (Doctors’ visas: Overseas hires thwarted by pay threshold, 24 January). As our own census shows, as well as recent BMA data, there are huge gaps in rotas. As a result, doctors are unable to deliver the standard of care they were trained to, and patients are at risk.

We may wish there were more homegrown doctors, but there simply aren’t. At the same time, the future remains uncertain for doctors from the EU, and the number of doctors who are able to train in the UK for 2 years under the Medical Training Initiative (MTI) is capped.

The government now recognises that doctors of all types are in short supply. Yes, we should be training many more here, and we welcome the investment in 1,500 new medical school places. But those doctors won’t be available for years, and patients need them now.

An immediate solution would be to:

  • expand the MTI
  • place doctors on the Home Office shortage occupation list
  • actively encourage the ethical recruitment of doctors from other countries.

We must start this debate now. If the government is serious about developing robust partnerships post-Brexit, issues such as these need to be addressed. Because every time something like this happens, our reputation on the world stage diminishes.

Professor Jane Dacre, president, Royal College of Physicians