Patients being sent abroad for operations that could be performed in the UK

Patients are being sent abroad for operations when they could be treated by doctors in the UK, a film screened at the BMA's annual conference has revealed.

Many of the U.K.'s 12,500 staff and associate specialist doctors ? who are distinct from junior doctors and consultants - have years of training and experience. However, the current medical career structure prevents them from taking referrals from GPs, managing their own clinics, and potentially performing thousands more operations.

In his address to the BMA's annual conference in Llandudno today, Mr Mohib Khan, chairman of the BMA's Staff and Associate Committee said: "Patients are losing out because highly skilled specialists are being prevented from offering their full expertise."

As part of his speech, he showed Untold Stories ? a film featuring interviews with three associate specialists. One of them, Mr Vijay Kumar, held a senior post in a teaching hospital in Saudi Arabia, and many of the doctors he trained there have qualified to practise as consultants in the NHS. Ironically, he has not been able to do the same because his experience is not recognised by the Royal College of Surgeons.

Despite having performed hundreds of operations as a locum consultant in the NHS, he is prevented from carrying out the same work as an associate specialist. Mr Kumar says, "It's frustrating that so many patients waiting for operations are being sent overseas, or to independent sector treatment centres staffed by surgeons from countries like South Africa. I fail to understand why they can't be treated by someone like me."

Legislation to allow doctors' experience to count towards inclusion on the specialist register ? which would allow them to apply for consultant posts - was passed last year. However, Miss Pushpa Dudani, a breast surgeon in Rotherham, says change is unlikely unless the bodies that oversee doctors' training shift their stance.

"As an associate specialist I can do the same things consultants do, but I'm not allowed to become one because the royal colleges don't recognise all my years of experience. They have tunnel vision and unless they change their attitude, we're not going to move forward at all."

Mr Khan will also highlight the plight of Mr Subhash Halder, an associate specialist doctor in Halifax, who has invented an implant that has revolutionised the treatment of fractures of the neck and arm. Despite winning international acclaim, patients cannot be referred to him directly, which he describes as demoralising: "I was getting referrals from different hospitals nearly every month, but I couldn't admit any patients under my own care. They had to be admitted under the care of a consultant, even though I did the operation, I did the follow-up and I got the results."

Click here to see the full speech and view the film: http://www.bma.org.uk/ap.nsf/Content/ARM04chSASC

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