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.

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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 in order to continue his clinical training, before moving to Dundee after completing his foundation training.

Eric said: “I now have a home in Dundee, and I wish to work and live here once I complete my GP training.

“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 I will not be eligible to apply for ILR after I complete my GP training next year as I will be two years short. In other words, I could lose the right to remain in this country once I am a qualified GP.”

He added: “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 – currently there aren’t many practices which do this and there is already a significant number of international medical graduates in Scotland facing similar issues, so I will have to compete with them for visa sponsoring practices.”

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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.

“We have proposed to the Scottish Government that they create fellowship posts for these trainees so that they can work as qualified GPs in Scotland, while remaining employed, and therefore sponsored, by NES for visa purposes.

“However, in the meantime, I would encourage any practice finding it hard to recruit a GP just now to consider applying to become a visa sponsor to ensure these much-needed doctors are not forced to leave Scotland.”