Monday, October 10, 2016

It is not racist to want to train enough doctors

Earlier today I had my teeth examined by an excellent dentist who was not born in the UK. I am grateful to him, and all the other foreign dentists who have looked after my teeth or those of members of my immediate family in the last few years - and to the foreign born doctors who have looked after our health. And I have lost count of the number of these medical professionals, but it's more than ten.

And in between periods when we have been able to get appointments with dentists, my family has gone through long periods of difficulty obtaining places with a dental practice or when we were with a practice where it took a long time to get non-emergency appointments because of a shortage of dentists.

Whenever I meet someone on the doorstep who wants Britain to adopt a much more strict immigration policy, and am given a chance to do so, I always ask if they or a member of their family has been treated by a foreign medical professional in the last five years, and the answer is nearly always yes.

For decades we have failed to train as many doctors and dentists as we need and have made up the shortfall by raiding other countries of the world, mostly poorer countries than Britain.

Essentially we, as one of the richest countries in the world, and one which does not usually shirk it's international responsibilities, have failed to do our fair share of training the world's medical professionals. And sometimes, as with the shortage of dentists, that neglect has come back to bite us.

It is for that reason, and no other, that I was absolutely delighted when Jeremy Hunt proposed that we are finally going to start training as many doctors as the country needs.

I doubt very much that this will mean a complete absence of foreign doctors working in our health service and I would not want it to: and we will lose some doctors who choose to move abroad. If we become self-sufficient in doctors we will inevitably move to a position where these two cancel out.

This does not mean that we will be "sending doctors home" because it will take decades for the fact that we are finally training enough British born doctors to work its way through.

I very much hope that the same policy is applied to dentists.

And, because Jeremy Hunt is finally doing something which any sane person should immediately realise has been overdue for decades, it is difficult for me to find words to express my anger at those politicians and journalists who present training enough doctors as "sending foreign doctors home" or, as John Harris put it in the Guardian this week, planning "to minimise the number of foreign doctors."

Harris is one of a number of people who have managed to get into their heads that training the number of doctors this country needs is not to do with ensuring that we actually have enough medical professionals but a sign of being a "bigot." I would love five minutes with this gentleman to explain to him in the words of one syllable which might just manage to make their way into the workings of his brain, the following point.

The reason I want to see this country training enough medical professionals is not because I don't like the excellent foreign doctors and dentists who have done great work looking after myself and my family - I am very grateful to them - but because if we train as many doctors, dentists and nurses as we need my family are less likely to have their medical care adversely affected by a shortage of them!!!

If there were any justice in this world, John Harris and all the other journalists and politicians who have criticised Jeremy Hunt and the PM for wanting to make Britain self-sufficient in doctors would be locked in a room with pen and paper and not allowed out until they had written ten thousand times the words,


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