By Lyndsay Moss, Health Correspondent, PA News
Overseas doctors are being exploited by the NHS with misleading job titles which they believe to be training positions, researchers claimed today.
An analysis of job advertisements found that almost a quarter of non-consultant doctors in the UK were being recruited to posts that did not conform to recognised NHS grades.
This meant that doctors, mostly from overseas, were taking on jobs which did not contribute towards their training, hindering their career progress, just to keep the NHS running, the researchers said.
And because the jobs fell outside nationally agreed terms and conditions for doctors, individual trusts set their own terms to fulfil their own needs.
The researchers, writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) said that many of these doctors “may not appreciate the difference between standard and non-standard training grade posts” and are likely to be unaware that they are not entitled to education supervision.
The British Medical Association (BMA) criticised this kind of “exploitation” and said it was “sad” that these positions were being filled by overseas doctors who believed they were applying for training posts.
The study looked at the number of adverts for non-standard posts in eight random issues of BMJ Careers, which features 95% of hospital jobs.
The advertisers were then asked why these posts existed, who filled them and what the doctors did in these jobs.
Just under a quarter of non-consultant ads were for non-standard grade posts.
Half of these were created to keep the NHS going where there was no more funding for recognised training posts.
Most of these jobs were expected to be filled by overseas doctors.
The jobs were also in breach of the European Working Time Directive as more than two-thirds of doctors taking the jobs were required to do on-call work and a quarter were on call for 24 hours every five days and one in five weekends.
These non-standard grade posts mean that doctors fall outside nationally agreed terms and conditions and are employed on the terms set by individual trusts.
Trusts can decide what their own hospital’s needs are and create a job to fulfil these needs.
The majority of advertisers (51%) said they were not able to recruit a standard grade because there was no more funding from the deanery for approved posts.
And 39% of respondents said their own service needs could not be met by doctors in standard training grades.
But this means many doctors taking on these jobs have their career progress halted because such jobs do not count towards basic specialist training.
The researchers said: “The NHS’s new deal for doctors in training recommends that ‘trusts should not use job titles that may mislead applicants because of their apparent similarity to recognised NHS training posts’.
“Our study shows that misleading job titles are widely used by trusts.”
Mohib Khan, chairman of the BMA’s staff and associate specialists committee, said the research highlighted the exploitation of overseas doctors by the NHS.
“Job titles like ‘junior doctor’ and ‘intermediate senior house officer’ are clearly designed to mislead doctors into thinking that they are applying for training grade positions.
“It is sad that these positions are being filled by overseas doctors who believe that they are applying for training posts,” he said.
Mr Khan said it was not in the interests of the NHS to mislead doctors into taking non-standard posts because it would create a “poorly motivated, disaffected workforce”.
“I do not see any need for these trust grade positions when NHS trusts can employ doctors as staff doctors or associate specialists under nationally recognised terms and conditions,” he added.
It is estimated that the number of trust doctors from developing countries working in the UK may be as high as 4,000.
Training that many doctors in this country would have cost around £600 million