India has emerged as the largest exporter of doctors and nurses to European countries, a media report said on Monday.
More than a third of National Health Service (NHS) doctors, some 35 per cent, in the UK alone were born abroad, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said.
"India and the Philippines were the largest exporters of doctors and nurses to OECD countries, by a ‘spectacular’ margin," the Telegraph quoted the yet-to-be-published report as saying.
The UK is also among the most dependent on foreign nurses, the report said. In total, 21.7 per cent of nurses were born abroad, a sharp increase from a decade earlier when the figure was 15.2 per cent. Across the EU, only Luxembourg, Ireland and Estonia are more dependent on nurses from overseas.
The report also shows that the UK is the second highest exporter of medics, second only to Germany with 17,000 British doctors working abroad. 17,000 UK doctors now work in other European health systems, behind India, China and Germany.
More than 50,000 British nurses now work in healthcare systems in the other OECD nations, behind only the Philippines and India.
"Overseas staff are a crucial part of the NHS team but they must have the relevant qualifications and good communication skills," a UK Department of Health spokesperson said.
"These figures largely pre-date our reforms which are intended specifically to increase the supply of home-grown staff. There are already more than 8,500 additional nurses on our wards and 10,100 more doctors since 2010, while recent changes to student nurse bursaries are set to increase the number of home-grown nursing, midwifery and allied health training places by up to 10,000 by 2020," the official said.
Earlier this year, the General Medical Council (GMC) found that new Indian doctors registering in Britain fell from 3,640 in 2004 to 340 in 2013. NHS figures show there has been a fall from 10,265 Indian doctors in 2009 to 6,880 today.
The NHS had turned to the Indian sub-continent during labour shortages in the 1960s and early 2000s to increase the headcount of doctors. A permit-free system as well as some short-term two-year training visas allowed Indian doctors to apply for and successfully complete specialist or general practice training in the UK.
The new OECD report, to be released in the New Year, will renew calls for the UK to do more to increase the count of UK medics within the NHS and reduce reliance on foreign staff.