The NHS would be ‘short-staffed’ without migrants, experts have claimed, after new figures revealed that more than a quarter of doctors are non-British.
Statistics from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) show that 11% of all people working in the NHS and community health services are not British.
Professionally qualified clinical staff are more likely to be foreign nationals (14%) and the figure rises even more for doctors (26%).
EU countries, English-speaking countries and those with ties to Britain through the Commonwealth supply the most employees.
A BMA spokeswoman told the Guardian: "Overseas doctors have for many years made a valuable and important contribution to the NHS, especially in key services where there has been a historic shortage of UK-trained doctors.
"This includes consultant posts in emergency care, haematology and old-age psychiatry. Without the support of these doctors many NHS services would struggle to provide effective care to their patients."
She said the figures reflected the fact that for many years the NHS actively encouraged overseas doctors to move to the UK.
Tim Finch, from the Institute for Public Policy Research thinktank, said: "People are still attracted to work in the NHS. Without them we'd clearly be short – it would be very hard to replace that number overnight.
"If the single thread of immigration policy is just to get the overall figure down by any means, you've got to look at the consequences of that on the NHS."
The HSCIC figures do not include GPs, as they are not employed by the NHS. However, the General Medical Council includes GPs in its data.
GMC figures show India is the second most common country of qualification after Britain.