Visa and sponsorship problems spark exodus of foreign trainee GPs from Scotland

Some international doctors training in Scotland face having to leave the UK due to issues with visas and sponsorships, the British Medical Association (BMA) has warned.

Currently, foundation training – the first two years of a doctor’s training after graduating medical school – falls under a tier 4 visa.

Once foundation training is completed, they then move onto a tier 2 skilled-worker visa, granting them indefinite leave to remain after working in the UK for five years.

However, the length of GP training is normally three years – meaning the current rule leaves trainees two years short.

NHS Education for Scotland (NES) sponsors GP trainees during their training period, but another sponsor is required once this is finished.

The problem is affecting GP trainees who are completing their training over the next four years, and who wish to then remain working and living in Scotland.

Eric, a second year GP trainee in Dundee, could potentially lose his right to remain working as a doctor in the UK when his training is completed next year.

He came to Edinburgh as a transfer student from Malaysia seven years ago before moving to Dundee after completing his foundation training.

Visa and sponsorship problems are forcing foreign trainee GPs to leave Scotland, their profession has warned

Eric said: “I was granted a tier 2 visa when I entered my GP training in August 2020, having held a tier 4 visa prior to that while I was studying and completing my foundation years.

“This means in other words, I could lose the right to remain in this country once I am a qualified GP.

“I am given only two weeks grace period after completion of training to find a practice that can sponsor me to remain in Scotland for at least another two years on my current visa.

“I am given only two weeks grace period after completion of training to find a practice that can sponsor me – currently there aren’t many practices which do this.”

Chair of the BMA’s Scottish GP Committee, Dr Andrew Buist, said: “We are desperately short of GPs as it is, so the last thing we need is to be in a position where fully qualified clinicians are being left with no choice but to leave Scotland because of an issue with the terms and conditions of their visa.”

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