Immigration officials will consider removing general practitioners from a skills shortage list as newly qualified immigrant doctors struggle to find jobs in hospitals.

Despite being New Zealand citizens and passing English and clinical competency exams, migrant doctors say they are being locked out of work.

Their concerns come on top of young Kiwi doctors struggling to find jobs in Auckland on graduation, as revealed last week in the Herald on Sunday.

Doctors from non-western countries must pass a New Zealand Registration Examination (NZREX) and work for a year under observation before they can be registered. Morella Lascurain, an NZREX-qualified doctor who runs a private health centre in Auckland, said the NZREX pathway had become a dead-end street.


She knows of at least 22 doctors from African, Middle Eastern and Asian countries who had passed the exam but were unable to find work as house officers. One of those included an ophthalmologist with 20 years' experience.

District health boards select candidates for graduate house officer positions under the Advanced Choice of Employment matching scheme. Places are offered on an eligibility system that gives priority to New Zealand students who have graduated from New Zealand medical schools.

NZREX doctors are left to approach boards in the hope a space might still be available.

Lascurain said removing general health practitioners from the Immigration Service's Long Term Skills Shortage List would go a long way to helping solve the problem.

"That would smooth the path for these doctors to get registered and be incorporated into the health system instead of driving taxis."

Immigration New Zealand general manager Rob Stevens said the service had become aware the situation had changed and the occupation would be included in next year's review.

The chairman of the Government health planning agency Health Workforce NZ, Des Gorman, said specialist doctors would always be needed from overseas but the local shortage of doctors was being addressed.

Fewer New Zealand-trained doctors were leaving and more medical students were being trained. "The days of needing to recruit are coming to a very rapid end," he said Gorman.

Medical Council chairman John Adams said he was aware of doctors who had passed NZREX but were unable to find a position for an intern year. The council would review the number of NZREX exams held next year.

Health Workforce acting director Ruth Anderson said NZREX doctors had succeeded in getting training places along with the 377 new graduate doctors in public hospitals.

Overseas-trained doctors made up about 40 per cent of the workforce.

Correction: Last week we reported the northern region's health boards offered only 50 positions to new graduates from Auckland University's School of Medicine. In fact, they increased their offer to 126 places in total, 96 of them taken by Auckland University graduates.