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NHS, which is the UK’s publicly funded health care system, is driving an initiative to hire doctors from India and has opened several training centres at private centres across India. (Getty)

In an exclusive interview, Dr RV Asokan, national president of IMA, told News18 that being a national body, IMA does not want to support the migration of skilled doctors as it could undermine the Indian healthcare system

The Indian Medical Association, the largest group representing doctors in India, has declined to participate in the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) initiative to recruit skilled doctors from India quickly to address the severe shortage of medical professionals in the UK.

NHS, which is the UK’s publicly funded health care system, is driving an initiative to hire doctors from India and has opened several training centres at private centres across India.

In an exclusive interview, Dr RV Asokan, national president of IMA, told News18 that being a national body, IMA does not want to support the migration of skilled doctors as it could undermine the Indian healthcare system. Instead, the lobby is focused on advocating for opportunities for young medical graduates, emphasising the concerning levels of unemployment among recent MBBS graduates in India.

“The NHS wants senior doctors who are already trained and skilled. We have politely turned down their offer,” Asokan said.

Asokan said the apex body, representing more than four lakh Indian medical professionals, “is not interested in sending doctors abroad as it is against the national interest and will weaken the Indian medical system”.

Industry sources indicate that the NHS has selected around 2,000 doctors from India to address the shortage in the UK. However, this selection does not ensure permanent relocation abroad.

“We are a national association and represent the interest of the country. This category of doctors is well paid and hence, we can’t become part of the brain drain. We would have been interested if the NHS would scout for young graduates from India. There was a mismatch in their demand and our needs,” Asokan said.

Need opportunities for young doctors

“We have a situation where young doctors are looking for jobs,” Asokan said.

Going by the count, he explained, India will have more than one million doctors unemployed in the next 10 years coming out of 706 medical colleges.

“In fact, the government has announced more medical colleges which will further increase problems. It’s a matter of great concern and frustration. To solve the issue, we have started an employment exchange initiative at the national and international levels for young graduates.”

Asokan explained that there is a gap of around 1.40 lakh students every year between students passing from MBBS to joining postgraduate. “Every student gives at least three attempts. These doctors are fresh. Some of these doctors take up just one day or duty doctors’ job at night for Rs 1,500.”

Good opportunities in India for skilled force

The UK is not an attractive destination when compared to India, Asokan said. “Opportunities in India are beaming,” he said, adding that “our doctors have very strong clinical skills”.

“Our doctors are the frontiers of modern medicines and also, India provides treatment at one-tenth the cost… Name any procedure and we can do it… hence, there is no reason to send a skilled force abroad.”

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