More overseas doctors joined the health service last year than the number of British students who enrolled in medical schools, figures show.
NHS England recruited more than 12,000 doctors from overseas in 2022, while only around 7,000 Brits began studying medicine across the country.
The figures, collected by think tank Migration Watch UK, also show that nearly half of all doctors joining NHS England last year came from abroad.
It urged accused the Government of a ‘dereliction of duty’ and urged it to boost the number of medical places available to students in the UK.
NHS England recruited more than 12,000 doctors from overseas in 2022 (red line), while only around 7,000 Brits began studying medicine across the country (yellow line)
These charts, based on NHS workforce data, show the proportion of doctors and nurses joining the NHS in England based on where they originally trained. In both professions the number of UK trained joiners has decreased over time (red lines) whereas the number of non-EU trained professionals has increased (yellow lines). The proportion of EU professionals joining the NHS has declined over time, taking a sharp dive in the years after the 2016 Brexit vote
The report, published today, shows that NHS England hired 26,321 doctors in 2022, of which 12,148 (46 per cent) were foreign nationals.
The vast majority (10,193) were from outside the EU.
The figure is 73 per cent higher than the 7,015 British students who enrolled to train to be doctors in English medical schools last years, according to research from Migration Watch UK, which campaigns for lower immigration.
It also means twice as many doctors were recruited from oversees last year compared to 2018, when the figure stood at 6,222.
Over the same period, the number of British medical trainees has increased by just 17 per cent.
As a result, within the next few years, the majority of new doctors joining the NHS in England will be foreign nationals, the think tank claims.
The health service will be left reliant on overseas recruitment as a result, it said.
It noted that more than 10,000 applicants hoping to study medicine were rejected last year, despite many meeting grade requirements for the course.
Medical school places in England are capped at around 7,500 due to the Government’s strict limit on funding.
Doctors’ unions have hit out at chronic staff shortages in the NHS — which has more than 130,000 vacancies in England — which it says has left the health service reliant on international recruitment due to a lack of long-term workforce planning.
Migration Watch called for the Government to instantly increase medical training capacity in the UK by 1,500, which it says would cost £427million. It said all available places should be filled by British students.
The UK’s Medical Schools Council has previously warned an extra 5,000 places are needed and questioned why a ‘highly developed country like the UK should be reliant on other countries’ for medics.
But hiring medics from overseas shows no signs of slowing, with the Department of Health last year launching an international recruitment taskforce to consider ‘innovative ways to boost staffing numbers’ in the health service and social care.
The NHS spent around £584million on hiring foreign staff over the last five years, including on recruitment agencies, overseas trips and visas.
India and Pakistan are two largest non-UK countries that doctors currently registered to work in Britain originally trained in with about 30,000 and 17,000 respectively. This is followed by Nigeria, Egypt , Ireland, South Africa, Greece, Sudan, Italy, and Romania
Jeremy Hutton, a researcher at Migration Watch UK said: ‘That the Government have failed to increase the number of funded training places while demand has grown is nothing short of a dereliction of duty.
‘It is one thing to recruit foreign doctors to fill short-term needs, it is another to rely on them long-term instead of training up future doctors here in Britain, and now we’re hiring more doctors from overseas than we’re even bothering to train.’
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘International recruitment is only one part of our plans to grow the NHS workforce and the supply of homegrown staff is increasing with record numbers of doctors and nurses.
‘We have funded an extra 1,500 medical school places per year – a 25% increase – since 2020 and we created five new medical schools as part of this process.
‘We will publish a long-term workforce plan this year focused on recruiting and retaining more staff.’