Letters: New rules for overseas doctors

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The Independent Online

New rules for overseas doctors are unfair and discriminatory

Sir: I work as a doctor in a district general hospital with many colleagues who are international medical graduates (IMGs), and so was very interested in your report of 31 March on immigration.

Working with doctors from India, Pakistan, Libya, Iraq, Mauritius, Nigeria, Kenya, and Poland, I am aware of the oversimplistic and biased way immigration is presented in the British media. In the last two weeks the Department of Health has issued new rules about the immigration status of IMGs which will have a profound effect on the careers of these doctors.

Presently, doctors working in the UK need to move frequently between training schemes, applying for jobs on perhaps an annual basis. IMGs are covered for this period with permit-free training visas and are subject to protection from British equal opportunities legislation.

The two sudden changes, throwing the system into disarray, are that IMGs must now apply for a work permit with every job and may only be employed if trusts can prove that a UK- or EU-trained doctor cannot fill the vacancy. In essence, this means that doctors I have seen invest time, commitment and resources in the NHS stand to lose the opportunity to continue training here with no warning or chance to alter their plans. It will mean that doctors who have dedicated themselves to the NHS and begun to study for their UK postgraduate exams who were born in India will be second choice to a Polish doctor who has no experience of the NHS.

I have profound concerns about this unjust shift which speaks volumes about the unfair way in which the immigration system operates in the UK and the high personal cost this has for individuals.



Sir: The new UK policy, which will effectively exclude most non-EU overseas doctors from training in the UK, is ill thought-out. Its effects are likely to include: current overseas trainees being forced to return to their country of origin, incompletely trained; recruitment of doctors of lower calibre and poorer English language skills in some specialties; "tit for tat" regulations in other countries to exclude UK doctors from working overseas, with potentially profound adverse effects upon charitable work; the impossibility of setting up "links" which train doctors from developing countries; loss of goodwill internationally and justifiable legal claims of institutionalised racism.




Carbon tax should replace income tax

Sir: A century ago, a reforming left-of-centre government invented income tax. It has grown to become one of the main sources of government revenue. The rest of the world copied us. It has hugely influenced the development of liberal democratic capitalism. Now it is time to change: we must start taxing carbon instead of income. Eventually carbon taxation should replace income taxation.

We must use our economic system to displace carbon-intensive activities, not attempt to set up madly complicated domestic rationing schemes. Governments around the world will not refocus their economic and taxation systems unless one of the larger economies takes the lead. It should be us.



Sir: A very simple measure to encourage energy conservation would be to reverse the price breaks on gas and electricity bills. In the case of electricity bills, users are charged more for the first few hundred units and then a lower price for further use. This pricing structure encourages profligate use of energy. If the first few hundred units were charged at a lower rate, those who use less energy would save money. Gas is similarly priced. It would also help if industrial users were charged per unit rather than the peak demand method often used. In all cases those who use more energy should be charged proportionally more.



Sir: Air freight is little mentioned in the debate on air travel and climate change. According to the UK Department of Transport, airfreight doubled in the decade to 1999 and is forecast to grow even more rapidly over the next 10 years. Better to use C0 2 emitting aircraft to move valuable human cargo (preferably on long haul flights where no reasonable alternative exists), than to airfreight unseasonable and exotic fresh foods and the ever increasing amount of "must have now" consumer products that fill our supermarket shelves. Rather than point the finger at a few chosen individuals, let us consider in this debate the cumulative impacts of our currently unsustainable transport methods that lie behind many of the products in our shops.



Sir: I often read your polemics against polluters with some unease at the environmental degradation caused by the production and distribution of your newspaper. It struck me that environmental protection by sharing resources is an unsung benefit of public libraries. Most books are probably only read once by individual purchasers, and a huge amount of pollution and destruction is prevented by sharing them among 20 or 30 borrowers instead. It is a pity that, driven by the burgeoning Westminster quangocracy, this clear and useful purpose of public libraries is being replaced by vague and vapid PC slogans, eg, "Provide access to learning, cultural and recreational opportunities", "Put customer and community needs first" etc, while funding for books and journals continues to fall.



Sir: I'm nearly 60 years old and was brought up by parents who had lived through two wars. "Waste not, want not" was their watchword. I enjoyed organic food in the 1950s. I had few toys. As I grew up, I never thought I could afford a car, so I didn't learn to drive. I've only travelled by aeroplane twice in my life, 36 years ago. I don't have central heating (I use a two-bar electric fire if it's very cold in the winter). I eat a largely vegetarian diet. I don't have a dishwasher or a hoover (I sweep the floors). I don't have internet access, but use high-street access if necessary. I don't have children.

Of course, people say I live in the past, but today I'm glad that I do, as, without even trying, my carbon footprint is about five times less than the average. What humans have done to the planet, its life, and themselves since the industrial revolution, is wholly the result of greed not need. And guess what? None of it was necessary. It is possible to live without any of the things that are literally costing us the earth.



Sir: Surely, on the same day as you accuse Prince Charles of not putting his money where his mouth is with regard to climate change (1 April), would it not have been better not to have published, in the Traveller section, articles designed to lure us all to "perfect escapist locations" in India, or a "magic mountain" in Colombia, both places which would be very hard to get to, except on a plane?



Hunting ensures animals' survival

Sir: Your report "British Tourists fuel Africa's cruel trade in canned hunting" (1 April) confuses the animal rights agenda with conservation - the two are diametrically opposed.

The hard fact, that conservationists recognise, is that "if it pays, it stays". Revenues from limited quota-based trophy hunting of wild animals in countries such as Tanzania and Zambia encourage governments and local people to take an interest in the health of the animal populations, rather than simply killing them for food or to protect livestock. You do not have to take my word for it - there have been many statements from Cites (which regulates trade in endangered species) and the IUCN (the umbrella organisation for all conservation groups) indicating the importance of hunting for conservation in Africa and elsewhere. In such cases, as only a few animals may be hunted each year, market forces dictate that the costs are high.

South Africa is different from these countries in that most of the hunting is on private fenced reserves, some as large as 130,000 acres. As landowners move from cattle to game animals, the number of game animals in the country, mostly indigenous ones, has increased significantly. Some native South African species, such as the bontebok, might not have survived if they had not been captive bred for hunting. South Africa is reviewing its hunting laws, with recommendations for changes, many of which are supported by the South African Professional Hunters' Association. Some of the practices your article refers to are already illegal, and would not be indulged in by any legitimate hunter. Regardless of the law, many hunters apply far higher standards than local law requires on account of the principle of "fair chase" - the animal must have the chance to evade the hunter. This is particularly the case with British hunters.



ID-card database is what scares us

Sir: Once again the Government has completely failed to see the real reason why millions of people are opposed to ID cards (report, 30 March). I doubt there is anyone in the country who would object to carrying a little piece of plastic with his or her name, date of birth etc on it. What many millions have a huge problem with is the hugely expensive and extremely insecure database that comes with it, a database that would log every visit to the doctor, every time you accessed council or government services and every time you visited a bank, forever.

Changing the ID Cards Bill so that people can opt out of getting a card when they join the database addresses neither this fundamental concern, nor the fact that making people join this Orwellian database when they renew a document that is almost essential in modern life makes the database not voluntary at all, but compulsory by the back door.



Kember: peaceful methods can work

Sir: Would the sneerers who question the wisdom of the Christian Peacemakers (letters, 27 March) care to understand that they were not in Iraq in order to attempt to convert Muslims to Christianity, but to be witnesses to the abuse of Iraqi citizens by both the Iraqi government and the occupying forces by collecting and collating evidence.

Furthermore, I would like to point out that it was not necessary for the rescuers to use force since the kidnappers had removed themselves in order to allow the hostages to be released. Doesn't that somewhat bear out the Peacemakers' point; ie peaceful methods can be used to resolve conflict - violence creates more of the same.



Smells like... an unscientific study

Sir: You report on an appallingly unscientific study by Dr Neil Martin on the effects of aromatherapy (1 April). Testing the effects of certain smells on the basis of what people say they like is the equivalent of asking people what their favourite music is and then concluding that music can have no calming effect because Eminem didn't work. Using lemon oil to relieve pain just because you like the smell would be like taking St John's Wort for a cold just because you like the taste. If Dr Martin wants to prove or disprove aromatherapy he should do some research on it beforehand - with any other subject this would be considered mandatory.



Agent Orange's victims

Sir: Can I add some important information to Jeremy Laurence's moving report on Agent Orange (1 April). Jean Lambert and two other MEPs will be tabling a "Written Declaration" in the European Parliament that calls for the UN to set aside a day each year for the Victims of Chemical Weapons, and Harry Cohen MP has tabled an Early Day Motion, which to date has the support of 74 MPs. Any readers who would like to add their support to the EDMs and the Written Declaration can sign the online petition at www.petitiononline.com/AOVN/



Moderation in all things

Sir: Guy Keleny asks if the phrases "moderate Christian" or "moderate Jew" would ever be used (1 April) . I've seen them used, usually when comparing mainstream followers with the fundamentalists of those religions. As a moderate whisky drinker is someone who doesn't go to the anti-social extreme, so a moderate religious follower is someone who remains civilised.



Praise for Conrad Black

Sir: Martin Newland is right to defend Conrad Black (3 April). He was a superb proprietor of the Telegraph Group, which he rejuvenated. His strong beliefs and enthusiasms allowed his papers to contribute with energy and erudition to many national and international debates. The range and the vigour of the British press is sadly diminished by his departure.



A threat to democracy

Sir: So Ashok Kumar believes that the surest way for Tony Blair to secure "a lasting and memorable legacy for Britain" is "to allow a smooth and rapid succession for Mr Brown" (report, 30 March). Has New Labour moved so far from basic democratic principles that elections no longer count and the current Prime Minister merely has to anoint his successor?



Breaking the waves

Sir: I would love to eavesdrop on a talk between coastal defence engineers and wave power engineers. There must be common ground between taking the maximum power out of big waves and getting the maximum power out of small waves.



Strange birds

Sir: I very much doubt that the ban on shooting birds in Malta (3 April) will protect either the American bald eagle (top picture) or the American robin (bottom left), neither of which is likely to venture anywhere near the Mediterranean.