Poland has lodged an official complaint over NHS attempts to recruit doctors from Eastern Europe
Warsaw said Britain’s use of specialised recruitment agencies in the region was “alarming” and called on eurocrats to draw up new laws which would ban the practice.
Health minister Konstanty Radziwill said he was dismayed by the “deepening” shortfall of qualified doctors and nurses facing his country, which was down to “increased recruitment” in Western Europe.
His remarks came after the NHS set up a programme to lure Polish doctors away from their homelands by offering bumper £90,000 salaries and practical help with the move to the UK.
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Warsaw also raises concerns Britain is abusing the Erasmus student exchange programme by actively targeting trainee doctors, saying many who attend universities in the West of the continent never return home.
The UK’s department of health immediately hit back, saying it valued its overseas workers and would continue to recruit health professionals from abroad after Brexit.
But Polish ministers are now so concerned by the phenomenon that they are urging the EU Commission to intervene, arguing that the actions of the UK and other wealthy member states breach World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines on ethical recruitment.
The move represents a rare political foray into the area of free movement for Warsaw, which has been fierce in its defence of the universal principle that its citizens should be allowed to move throughout Europe for work.
e have observed an increased recruitment wave of medical doctors by certain countries
A spokesman for Mr Radziwill said: “We have observed an increased recruitment wave of medical doctors by certain countries, which proves the demand is far higher than supply, even in countries which offer excellent financial conditions for the health workforce.
“In the countries of Central and Eastern Europe the problem of loss of health workforce may deepen.
“What is even more alarming, some countries have decided to actively recruit physicians from Central and Eastern Europe with the support of specialised agencies.”
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He added: “There is a need to stop actively recruiting medical doctors and nurses from countries where their number is too small.
“We expect that the European Commission will take action on the EU level to support Member States in preventing the loss of medical personnel, including for example preparing the track and trace system and introducing EU tool aimed at preventing active recruitment.”
Statistics from the General Medical Council published last month state there are currently 2,205 Polish doctors working in the UK, making up around 0.8 per cent of the total number.
However, many more Poles work in Britain in other medical roles and a quick Google search reveals a raft of agencies specialising specifically in recruiting nurses from Poland.
Warsaw described the health service's use of recruitment agencies in the region as alarming
British ambulance services are increasingly targeting Poland as a way of plugging labour shortages, with both the South Central and East Coast operations carrying out active recruitment there.
And Eurostat figures show the number of nurses working in the Eastern European country dropped between 2009 and 2014 despite the fact it is now training an extra 2,500 every year.
They state that Poland now has just 524 nursing professionals working in its health service for every 100,000 people, compared to 667 in the UK and 1,111 in Germany.
The NHS hopes to lure doctors to the UK with £90,000 salaries and help with the move
Warsaw is also lagging behind in terms of qualified doctors and is able to field just 230 GPs and specialists per 100,000 pf the population compared to 280 in Britain.
The WHO Global Code of Practice, which Britain is signed up to, clearly states that members should “discourage active recruitment of health personnel from developing countries facing critical shortages of health workers”.
NHS England declined to comment and directed enquiries to the Department of Health.
Poland are urging the European Commission to intervene
A DoH spokesman said: “Overseas workers form a crucial part of our NHS and we value their contribution immensely.
“The Government has been clear that public services and other industries that depend on migrant labour would need to be able to continue to recruit workers from overseas.
"NHS trusts recruiting from overseas should adhere to the WHO code of practice on ethical recruitment.”
Official figures show there were 831,000 Polish people living and working in Britain in 2015, making up almost a third of the UK’s three million strong population of EU citizens.