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Report urges HIV checks for foreign doctors

A report commissioned by Migrationwatch UK has accused the government of failing to protect public health by not screening migrant doctors and healthcare workers for HIV and hepatitis.

Between 2002 and 2003, more than 40% of the nurses that registered with the NHS were from abroad, with about 1,300 arriving from South Africa alone, which has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in Africa. Among newly recruited doctors, nearly three quarters had qualified outside of Britain, with many coming from countries with high levels of HIV, TB and Hepatitis. However, the report does not specify to what extent this has actually had an affect on the health of patients and fellow medical staff.

Britain is unusual in not having a screening programme for new medical staff, as more than 50 other countries including America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have compulsory testing for new recruits. Some have suggested the government has adopted this policy to try and encourage as many overseas workers to enter the NHS as possible and alleviate the chronic shortage of doctors and nurses. However, while NHS numbers have been boosted, many of the poorest countries in the world are now facing a severe shortage of healthcare workers as a result. This, say many charities and NGOs is the real crisis, and one that is shamefully overlooked by both the UK government, and the leaders of the nations affected.