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British Hospitals Face Financial Crisis

Several hospitals in Britain's National Health Service (NHS) is facing a severe financial crunch, thereby resulting in job losses and changes// in work rules as well, which has deeply affected the employment prospects of Indian doctors.

The financial crunch further lessens the prospects of thousands of Indian doctors currently seeking employment in Britain. Almost every day, several hospitals announce job cuts to meet budget deficits. In recent weeks, the overall job losses in the NHS are said to be nearly 7,000 in 22 trusts and hospitals in different parts of the country.

New work rules have compounded the situation for them as now they can no longer work as part of "permit free training", and need work permits.

Britain's health authorities are faced with higher numbers of local medical graduates and many more from the expanded European Union who have the right to work in Britain. The situation makes it difficult for non-EU nationals - such as Indian doctors - to secure employment in the NHS.

An association of doctors of Indian origin has scheduled a demonstration outside the Department of Health here April 21 to protest the changes in work rules as applicable to Indian doctors.

Last week, York Hospitals NHS Trust decided to cut 200 jobs over the coming year as part of plans to save seven million pounds. Two days earlier the Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust had announced that 720 jobs were to be axed as it tries to save 30 million pounds.

The University Hospital of North Staffordshire is cutting 1,000 jobs in the face of a 15.5 million pound debt, while Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust is also losing 325 posts as part of plans to save more than 10 million pounds over the next year.

The Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, north London, is cutting about 480 jobs under plans to save 25 million pounds in the next year, and the Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Trust said that it could be forced to cut 250 jobs to avoid going into debt.

To save costs, some hospitals - such as those in Staffordshire - have resorted to outsourcing medical secretarial work to India. A similar pilot scheme at the Royal Cornwall Hospital (RCH) has been opposed by the local staff.

As one of the cost-cutting schemes, hospital officials have proposed that consultants use a digital recorder to dictate notes that can be uploaded via the internet and sent to companies in India and elsewhere to be typed.

A spokesman for RCH said: "We are reviewing ways to address a backlog of work that cannot be met, at the moment, by staff at the trust. We are considering companies who provide similar services for other NHS organizations and, throughout any pilots, they will be monitored and assessed on their speed of turnaround, accuracy, reliability and cost issues. We will then evaluate the outcomes."

--Edited IANS

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