Banbury campaign expert warns of visa ‘perfect storm’

Dr Peter Fisher, second from left, who is one of the Keep the Horton General Legal team outside the Appeal Court last December with, l - r, Peter McLoughlin, Keith Strangwood and Charlotte Bird NNL-170812-173746001
Dr Peter Fisher, second from left, who is one of the Keep the Horton General Legal team outside the Appeal Court last December with, l - r, Peter McLoughlin, Keith Strangwood and Charlotte Bird NNL-170812-173746001

A senior member of Banbury’s hospital campaign group has written to the new Home Secretary over immigration rules that are endangering local services.

Dr Peter Fisher of Keep the Horton General has sent Sajid Javid a paper, written by his professional association (Doctors for the NHS) citing the dangers of limiting visas for desperately needed specialists.

Dr Peter Fisher, retired consultant physician at the Horton General Hospital

Dr Peter Fisher, retired consultant physician at the Horton General Hospital

“I sent him the report as not only does it touch on the alleged reason for removing our obstetric (consultant-led maternity) service but this absurd barrier to recruiting the doctors the NHS desperately needs is having serious effects nationwide,” said Dr Fisher.

“On appointment he said he will deal not only with the Windrush scandal but look at the whole immigration policy so it seemed a good moment to provide him with detailed reasons why he must honour this commitment.”

Dr Fisher was referring to the specialist doctor shortage and inability to recruit middle grade obstetricians to the Horton cited by Oxford University Hospitals Trust to justify removing full maternity to Oxford.

The trust’s stance will be central to the re-examination of the downgrade by a ‘Super-HOSC’, a health overview and scrutiny committee for Oxfordshire, south Northants and south Warwickshire.

The Horton General Hospital, Maternity Unit where inability to recruit obstetric doctors led to its downgrade

The Horton General Hospital, Maternity Unit where inability to recruit obstetric doctors led to its downgrade

This new body is being set up in response to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel’s (IRP) report on replacing Banbury’s maternity with a midwife-only service. The IRP felt the proposal should have been scrutinised by elected councillors in the cross-border communties that see the Horton as their local hospital.

Dr Fisher sent the paper to the newHome Secretary – appointed after Amber Rudd quit over the issue of targets for deportation of illegal immigrants – to warn of a ‘perfect storm’ caused by visa restrictions at a time of huge specialist shortages that are causing closures of wards all over the country.

Written by Dr Peter Trewby, it says: “A squeeze on the number of visas issued and competition for those available meant in December 2017, the points bar for admission was raised (from 20 points) to 55.

“To score 55 points, a doctor needs to earn an unattainable £55,000 (the salary for middle grade posts are £36,000 to £46,000). Many trusts have been caught short with doctors unable to obtain visas.”

Current rules already prevent trusts apppointing to posts if British or EU doctors apply.

“Restrictions on migration will force trusts to employ more locums, drawn from the already over-stretched resident workforce. The effect will be more gaps on rotas, more stress amongst medical staff and yet more money spent on locums,” he writes.

“The World Health Organisation estimates a world shortage of two million doctors. We must question whether it is right for the sixth richest nation in the world to be so dependent on international graduates trained at the expense of countries that can ill-afford to train their own doctors, let alone ours.

“The situation for medical migration post-Brexit will add further to the woes of medical staffing departments.”

Dr Trewby called for much greater concentration on training new doctors in Britain.

Read more at www.doctorsforthenhs.org.uk/visa-restrictions-and-medical-staffing-a-perfect-storm/

The consultant physician was, until recently, Associate International Director at the Royal College of Physicians.