A small benefit from Brexit to Commonwealth ophthalmologists

Ophthalmology Times JournalOphthalmology Times, March 15 2019
Volume 44
Issue 5

Britain has long depended on doctors from India to run the NHS and Brexit will impact this.

Popular or not, Brexit could offer benefits for eye surgeons born and trained in Commonwealth countries.

It’s not been widely reported in the United Kingdom (UK) media, more so in the Indian press, but some doctors coming from outside Europe, in particular India, are welcoming Brexit as it may create more jobs for their medical graduates.

According to the Hindustan Times, Britain has long depended on physicians from India to run the National Health Service (NHS). The reliance may increase after the UK leaves the European Union and EU-trained doctors no longer have the right to work here.1

India is the largest-source country of doctors in the NHS after Britain-currently, 25,281 doctors gained their medical qualifications in India.

Opinions are mixed

While some younger surgeons and students born in India are welcoming Brexit to improve their chances of a Tier 2 Visa stay in the UK, not everyone agrees Brexit will benefit Commonwealth surgeons, such as Dinesh Verma, MD, a former Consultant Ophthalmologist in the NHS and independent sector for over 25 years, including Cambridge University Hospitals.

Like many ophthalmologists, Dr. Verma qualified in India (MBBS in 1978 at Maulana Azad Medical College) and was awarded his MD in ophthalmology in 1983, again in India, at the All India Institute of Medical sciences. He migrated to the UK in the same year, gaining a diploma in ophthalmology from the Royal College of Surgeons of England in 1984 and an FRCS at Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in 1985. Later in 1988, he achieved a FRCO.

“Personally, I voted to remain but I can see why a small majority from England voted for Brexit,” Dr. Verma said. “I believe it was mainly due to fear of mass uncontrollable immigration from Europe (and beyond via Europe) that triggered it but Brexiteers did not foresee the likely negative economic consequences.”

Britain has long depended on doctors from India to run the NHS and Brexit will impact this.

“Britain has long tradition of welcoming doctors from the Asian subcontinent mainly for trainingpurposes but over last 25 to 30 years, the cream of those coming for training were absorbed into the NHS albeit either in middle grade jobs or GP/ Consultant only in areas of high demand, where white doctors didn’t want to practice,” Dr. Verma said. “There has recently been an increase in institutional rac- ism as BME doctors have been competing for and demanding more leadership positions.”

Dr. Verma’s views on Brexit and how it will impact on the NHS and ophthalmology in the UK are echoed by Gary McIndoe, the founder and managing director of specialist business immigration law firm, Latitude Law.

McIndoe helps businesses across the UK to retain and attract outstanding international talent and his companyboasts the largest dedicated business immigration team in the north of England.

Since the vote, McIndoe and his team have been providing strategic advice and support to businesses concerned about their ability to re- cruit and retain international employees, both now and in the post-EU commercial environment.

Brexit's beneficiaries                                                                                                                                                                                           

“Whilst in general, I believe Brexit to be a huge mistake, there can be no doubt that some people will benefit when the UK leaves the EU,” McIndoe said. “From a corporate immigration perspective, the UK relies heavily upon foreign talent to help support and grow our economy. We need external workers covering all skill levels and across a very wide variety of sectors and industries. One sector hit particularly hard by the Brexit process has been healthcare, with one in 11 NHS posts currently unfilled, rising to one in eight across available nursing positions.2

“Employee shortfalls will continue, and indeed probably worsen once we leave the EU, and what is less clear is how employers will source staff once free movement ceases. For ophthalmolo- gists and other highly qualified medics from beyond the EU, Brexit may indeed level the playing field in terms of access to roles within the UK-once free movement of workers ends, all doctors and nurses wishing to work in the UK will have to apply for a Tier 2 visa, regardless of their country of origin.”

McIndoe also reckons that the passporting of European medical qualifications may also end after Brexit. EU-qualified individuals will also be stripped of that benefit and will have to prove their capability in the same way as any other non-EU applicants.

“These changes may encourage increased applications from Commonwealth countries such as Pakistan and India. The £30,000 minimum salary requirement remains in place for Tier 2 visa applications, ensuring Brexit will only really benefit more highly qualified and senior practitioners,” McIndoe said.

Commonwealth countries have always had a medical training program inspired and founded by Britain.

Some Brexit fallout

UK mainstream media haven’t widely reported any benefits to Brexit in terms of physicians, perhaps for unfounded fear of mass Asian immigrants if they hear that it will be easier after Brexit to get a UK visa as a professional.

“Personally, I don’t think that will happen due to deep-seated institutional racism in NHS which will only increase after Brexit,” Dr. Verma said.

Ophthalmology in the UK owes so much to Commonwealth-born eye surgeons who do so much for the NHS and other private practices. While it seems benefits to Brexit are slim-pickings it is refreshing to read in the Indian media, that Brexit is offering hope to a few, he noted. 




1. https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/uk- reliance-on-indian-doctors-likely-to-rise-post-brexit/ story-ALvfLtrbKpX9KYae3r8gPI.html
2. https://www.bmj.com/content/364/bmj.k5308

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