More than one in seven new doctors joining the Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust come from developing countries where recruitment is banned.
A leading health think tank has warned NHS trusts not to stray from ethical recruitment guidelines in the face of post-Brexit staff shortages.
But new figures have revealed a surge in medics joining the NHS from a list of countries the Government says should not be actively recruited from, such as Bangladesh, Georgia and Nigeria.
Of the 94 new doctors who joined the Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust in the 12 months to January, 14 gained their medical qualifications in countries on the restricted list, according to NHS Digital.
The policy is intended to prevent valuable medical staff being poached from their home nations, which are often in receipt of foreign aid and may have a shortage of medics. It does not prevent trusts from considering applications on an individual basis, as long as they are not directly targeted. Across England, doctors recruited from listed countries has been steadily rising.
In 2015-16, there were 2,192 recruits – 13% of doctors hired that year. By 2018-19, this had risen to 3,686, 19% of the total. The highest proportion (1,006 doctors) came from Pakistan, followed by Nigeria (736) and Egypt (501). Alex Baylis, assistant director of policy at health think tank the King’s Fund, said staff shortages had been exacerbated by a “dramatic drop-off” in workers coming from Europe since the Brexit vote, but warned this should not cause ethical hiring practices to fall by the wayside.
He said: “Many NHS services are trying to find staff wherever they can, but international recruitment must be done ethically and there are codes of practice on ethical recruitment for a reason.
“It’s essential that the NHS complies with these guidelines even when they are under pressure to plug rota gaps.
“In the short-term, some vacancies can only be filled by ramping up international recruitment but attracting staff from overseas must be part of a wider plan for solving the workforce crisis – a plan that makes a commitment to increasing domestic training, recruitment and retention.”
On the list, Pakistan provided the most doctors at WWL, with four training there, followed by Egypt and Sudan, with three doctors each.
Alison Balson, Director of Workforce at WWL said: “The WHO’s Code of Practice for international recruitment states that developing countries should not be targeted when actively recruiting professionals.
“The rationale for the list is based upon the economic status of the countries and how many healthcare professionals are available. WWL Trust does not actively target any of the countries, however, international candidates are free to apply for vacancies. If eligible, under Home Office provisions, WWL does not discriminate any applicant on the basis of their country of origin or where they have obtained their qualifications.