Indian Docs Win Work Status Case In UK

Indian docs win work status case in UK

In Press Trust of Indiaword
Wednesday, April 30, 2008 (London)

Indian doctors on Wednesday won a landmark legal battle against the British government when the House of Lords ruled that the state ''was wrong'' in issuing guidelines discriminating against overseas graduates, mostly Indians, for employment in its health services.

In a 4-1 judgement, Britain highest judiciary dismissed the government's appeal against an earlier court decision in favour of the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO), which had challenged an April 2006 order to hospital trusts to employ non-EU medicos only if no candidate from EU is available.

''The Department of Health was wrong in issuing guidelines in April 2006 discriminating against overseas graduates,'' the House of Lords ruled.

The BAPIO, which had challenged government's attempt to retrospectively introduce regulations to restrict non-EU doctors already in the UK from applying for training posts in the state-aided National Health Service, said the ruling had ''vindicated'' their position that the government had acted in haste.

''The House of Lords has vindicated our position that the government had acted in haste and prematurely without thinking through the damaging consequences for thousands of international medical graduate,'' Ramesh Mehta, President of the BAPIO, said.

About 7000 to 8000 international medical graduates, mostly Indians, will be benefitted from this landmark judgement, he said, adding, ''we have won with a cost''.

''We expect the government would now treat the overseas doctors particularly Indians fairly and equally on basis of merit in the jobs in the NHS,'' Mehta said.

The Indian doctors under the Highly Skilled Migrants Programme (HSMP) were allowed to compete for jobs after the court ruling in favour of them last year, but Wednesday's Lords ruling puts a seal of finality on their employability status.

Indian and other non-European Union doctors had found themselves in the lurch when the Department of Health, faced with a large pool of UK and EU-trained doctors, directed hospital trusts to give preference to EU doctors.

''This will provide much needed relief to thousands of doctors who have been through unimaginable stress,'' said Satheesh Mathew, BAPIO Vice Chair, adding, ''many careers have already been destroyed- however this ruling will give hope of fair treatment to the doctors who are still in the UK''.

BAPIO had argued during a recent hearing that it agreed with the department's argument about a surplus in UK and EU-trained doctors, but the guidance should not be applied retrospectively.

The BAPIO pointed to a recent ruling by the House of Lords and Commons Joint Committee on Human Rights, against retrospective application of the immigration rules.

''The Committee concludes that the changes to the HSMP are clearly not compatible with the right to respect for home and family life under Article 8 ECHR (European Convention of Human Rights)and contrary to basic notions of fairness,'' the committee said.

The committee recommended that the changes to immigration rules in April 2006 ''should be amended so that the changes apply only prospectively, that is to future applicants to the HSMP, and that those already granted leave to remain under HSMP when the relevant changes took effect should be treated according to the rules which applied before those changes''.