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Hospitals accused over `cheap labour' medics; Region exploiting foreign doctors, says BMA Medical care on the cheap.

Byline: ROB LUDGATE

MERSEYSIDE hospitals are exploiting foreign doctors by forcing them to work longer hours and for less money than their UK-trained colleagues, the British Medical Association has claimed.

Many highly-qualified medics wget around pounds 25, 000 a year less than their colleagues and work 73 hours per week - well over the recommended 48 hours.

Last night, a senior BMA figure said the foreign doctors, who are all staff and associate specialists (SAS), demanded they be treated more fairly.

Dr Mohib Khan, chairman of the BMA committee which represents SAS doctors, said he had never encountered such exploitative terms as in the Mersey region. There are around 300 SAS doctors in the region, nearly all of whom are non-British. They make up around half the doctors in A&E departments.

Dr Khan said: ``It is just cheap labour from another part of the world. ''

Dr Om Bansal, regional chairman of the Mersey SAS committee, added: ``Vulnerable but highly-trained doctors from overseas are certainly being exploited in the region. ''

The inequalities were uncovered in a BMA report, which looked at how many hours SAS doctors worked and how much they are paid.

The average full-time SAS doctor works 73 hours per week - well over the European Working Time Directive limit of 48 hours. This is the maximum number of hours that consultants are contracted to work, and for junior doctors the weekly maximum is 58.

It also found that SAS doctors often receive little or no extra pay for working overtime. Where a top consultant would get pounds 85, 000, an SAS doctor would earn around pounds 60, 000.

This is causing major concerns over morale.

There are also fears that Merseyside hospitals will face a doctor shortage due to large numbers of SAS doctors moving to areas where the pay is more reflective of the number of hours worked.

Dr Khan has written to Health Minister John Hutton to seek an investigation. An NHS Confederation spokesperson said: ``We recognise the difference in the standards of the contracts and that SAS doctors are left behind, and this is why we're considering the issues highlighted by the BMA survey. ''

Deputy Director of NHS Employers Alastair Henderson said: ``Staff and associate specialist doctors play a crucial role in the NHS. The Department of Health has accepted a series of recommendations that will value their role. NHS Employers expects to shortly take forward detailed negotiations with the BMA on a new contract for these doctors. ''

Southport and Ormskirk Hospital Trust said: ``In common with the majority of trusts throughout the UK, we do employ Trust and Locum doctors at all grades on fixed-term locally agreed contracts usually of six months duration.

``They receive at least the same conditions as those on national contracts. ''

Mersey Care NHS Trust said: ``All our doctors are on standard contracts, we value our staff and associate specialist doctors and we value the work they do here. ''

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I get pounds 20k less than a newly-appointed consultant, says Nanik Vaswani, from the Royal Liverpool Hospital FULL STORY: P4 Picture: JASON ROBERTS
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Dec 13, 2004
Words:513
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