More than a third of doctors on Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) were born abroad, new figures reveal, raising fears of patient safety as medics struggle to make themselves understood.
Figures from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) show that 35 per cent of NHS doctors were not born in Britain, putting the UK ahead of every other European Union (EU) country except tiny Luxembourg.
The figures come despite Britain being one of the OECD’s biggest exporters of doctors and nurses. Critics have attacked the so-called “revolving door” policies of immigration which mean Britain spends billions of pounds training doctors only to see them move abroad, and then relying on migrant labour to fill the gaps.
More than one in five nurses working in the UK were also born abroad, a sharp increase from just ten years ago, when they accounted for 15.2 per cent. The Telegraph reports that only Ireland, Luxembourg and Estonia are more dependent on nurses from foreign countries.
The 35 per cent of doctors working in Britain who were born abroad compares with just 5 per cent in Italy, 10.7 per cent in Germany and 19.5 per cent in France.
The figures come as separate research reveals that hospitals with the highest number of foreign nurses reported the highest levels of patient dissatisfaction, with people saying they struggled to understand staff.
Katherine Murphy of the Patient Association warned more needed to be done make sure patients were not put at risk.
“We have heard from patients on our helpline that there can be real issues with some doctors and nurses from other countries; including problems with communication and a lack of understanding of processes and procedures.
“Trusts and practices must make sure that overseas staff have the necessary support and training to be able to offer patients safe and effective care.”
Meanwhile the amount of medical staff emigrating from the UK remains a significant problem. More than 50,000 British nurses now work in other OECD nations, while 17,000 UK doctors also work abroad.
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “Overseas staff are a crucial part of the NHS team but they must have the relevant qualifications and good communication skills.
“These figures largely predate our reforms which are intended specifically to increase the supply of home-grown staff.
“There are already more than 8,500 additional nurses on our wards and 10,100 more doctors since 2010, while recent changes to student nurse bursaries are set to increase the number of home-grown nursing, midwifery and allied health training places by up to 10,000 by 2020.”