Senior doctors are calling on health secretary Frank Dobson to investigate claims of discrimination against juniors from overseas.

Consultants at Rochdale Healthcare trust claim they have faced repeated obstruction in recruiting staff from outside the EU since they protested about comments made by the regional dean of postgraduate medical education.

The issue has been taken up by Liberal Democrat health spokesman Simon Hughes, who has asked for a meeting with Mr Dobson to discuss the position and is calling for a national inquiry into racism in the NHS.

Regional dean Professor Jacky Hayden, who controls half the budget for senior house officer posts in the region, visited Birch Hill Hospital last year to examine its medical training.

Mr Hughes told a recent House of Commons debate that Professor Hayden had said: 'I am disappointed not to find many UK graduates employed in your hospital. I am giving you a clear warning that when I come back in two years' time if this has not changed then I will remove some of the funding for training.'

Consultant paediatrician Dr Rupert Smith said consultants had been 'stunned' by the remarks.

'Ever since then, the degree of co-operation as regards the postgraduate dean has been sadly lacking,' said Dr Smith.

Mr Hughes raised the issue during a debate following the furore over claims that a kidney was donated in Sheffield on condition that it did not go to an ethnic minority recipient.

He was concerned that 'the dean has made only a statement that her comments were misunderstood, and not a full apology'.

Professor Hayden was formally reprimanded by Manchester University following a university inquiry into the remarks last year.

The inquiry concluded that she made 'an error of judgement in making insensitive remarks which were capable of misunderstanding and open to misinterpretation'.

Professor Hayden declined to comment when contacted by HSJ.