A US-trained anaesthetist is fighting for consultant status in Britain in a case that could have implications for medical workforce planning.

Richard Kaul (pictured left), who says the 'attending' grade he reached in the US after four years' specialist training is equivalent to British consultant status, is appealing against a decision by the Specialist Training Authority to refuse his application to join the specialist register.

Dr Kaul, who is British, left the US after being refused a work permit. He says the Royal College of Anaesthetists will not recognise his qualifications and wants him to spend a further 18 months on training rotas.

'The Royal College of Anaesthetists said my American training was inadequate in length, breadth and depth,' Dr Kaul told the Journal. 'That is nonsense. It is true that people here spend six years training to be anaesthetists, but the US programme is more intensive and very well organised.

'I also used to work in the Bronx, where I could see 20 stabbings in a night. That is the sort of thing people here would see once in a blue moon.'

Dr Kaul's case, to be heard on 15 January, is potentially embarrassing for the Royal College of Anaesthetists. If it is forced to accept his argument, it could also be forced to accept that British doctors take six years to reach the standard US doctors reach in four.

It also comes at a time when there is a serious shortage of consultant anaesthetists. In its report, Anaesthesia Under Examination, the Audit Commission found half of all trusts had vacant posts.

The Medical Workforce Standing Advisory Committee is calling for an extra 1,000 medical students a year to be trained to prevent a shortage of doctors.

A Royal College of Anaesthetists spokesperson confirmed that Dr Kaul's application to join the specialist register had been refused and said he had a 'statutory right of appeal, which he is following'.

See News Focus, page 13.