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Open Access Debate

Modernising the regulation of medical migration: moving from national monopolies to international markets

Richard J Epstein1* and Stephen D Epstein2

Author Affiliations

1 Conjoint Professor, Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales, St Vincent's Hospital, Victoria St, Darlinghurst, Sydney, 2010, Australia

2 Senior Counsel, Nigel Bowen Chambers, Phillip St, Sydney, 2000, Australia

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BMC Medical Ethics 2012, 13:26  doi:10.1186/1472-6939-13-26

Published: 5 October 2012



Traditional top-down national regulation of internationally mobile doctors and nurses is fast being rendered obsolete by the speed of globalisation and digitisation. Here we propose a bottom-up system in which responsibility for hiring and accrediting overseas staff begins to be shared by medical employers, managers, and insurers.


In this model, professional Boards would retain authority for disciplinary proceedings in response to local complaints, but would lose their present power of veto over foreign practitioners recruited by employers who have independently evaluated and approved such candidates' ability. Evaluations of this kind could be facilitated by globally accessible National Registers of professional work and conduct. A decentralised system of this kind could also dispense with time-consuming national oversight of continuing professional education and license revalidation, which tasks could be replaced over time by tighter institutional audit supported by stronger powers to terminate underperforming employees.


Market forces based on the reputation (and, hence, financial and political viability) of employers and institutions could continue to ensure patient safety in the future, while at the same time improving both national system efficiency and international professional mobility.

Registration; Medical councils; Globalisation; Bureaucracy; CME/CPD; Revalidation