Britain is now importing more doctors than it trains, according to new figures showing a steep rise in the numbers recruited from overseas.
Simon Stevens, head of the NHS, said the health service must stop “denuding low income countries of health professionals they need” amid warnings of a growing moral crisis.
The figures, from the General Medical Council (GMC), show that last year, 53 per cent of those joining the medical register came from overseas to do so – a rise from 39 per cent in 2015.
Cancer surgeon Professor J Meirion Thomas yesterday told a conference in London: “I think there is a moral issue here. We are poaching doctors from abroad and have done for decades.
“They are coming from countries where they have been trained at public expense and where they are sorely needed.
“For example we’re emptying Romania of doctors … they’re coming from eastern Europe, they’re coming from Pakistan, India, Egypt and they’re coming from Nigeria,” he said.
The figures show that last year 8,115 doctors joined the medical register after training abroad, along with 7,186 doctors from UK medical schools. This is the first time since 2006 that overseas doctors have outnumbered UK medics joining the register.
Prof Thomas said the trend, combined with a fall in the proportion of junior doctors progressing to speciality training, was a “recipe for absolute disaster”.
Figures from the GMC show that in the first four months of last year, the number of doctors from beyond Europe applying to work in Britain rose by 49 per cent, compared with the previous year.