Almost one in six new doctors joining the Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust come from developing countries where recruitment is banned.

A leading health think tank has warned NHS trusts not to stray from ethical recruitment guidelines in the face of post-Brexit staff shortages.

But new figures have revealed a surge in medics joining the NHS from a list of countries the Government says should not be actively recruited from, such as Bangladesh, Georgia and Nigeria.

Of the 110 new doctors who joined the Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in the 12 months to January, 18 gained their medical qualifications in countries on the restricted list, according to NHS Digital.

The policy is intended to prevent valuable medical staff being poached from their home nations, which are often in receipt of foreign aid and may have a shortage of medics.

It does not prevent trusts from considering applications on an individual basis, as long as they are not directly targeted in recruitment drives.

Across England, the number of doctors recruited from listed countries has been steadily rising.

In 2015-16, there were 2,192 recruits – 13% of doctors hired that year.

By 2018-19, this had risen to 3,686, 19% of the total.

The highest proportion (1,006 doctors) came from Pakistan, followed by Nigeria (736) and Egypt (501).

Alex Baylis, assistant director of policy at health think tank the King’s Fund, said staff shortages had been exacerbated by a “dramatic drop-off” in workers coming from Europe since the Brexit vote, but warned this should not cause ethical hiring practices to fall by the wayside.

“Many NHS services are trying to find staff wherever they can, but international recruitment must be done ethically and there are codes of practice on ethical recruitment for a reason,” he said.

“It’s essential that the NHS complies with these guidelines even when they are under pressure to plug rota gaps.

“In the short-term, some NHS vacancies can only be filled by ramping up international recruitment but attracting staff from overseas must be part of a wider plan for solving the workforce crisis – a plan that makes a commitment to increasing domestic training, recruitment and retention.”

On the list, Pakistan provided the most doctors at the Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, with six training there.

This was followed by Nigeria, with four doctors, then Egypt, with two.

On top of the 18, it also hired six doctors from India and one from China, which are included on the list but trusts are only restricted from hiring from certain regions which are particularly poor, or from small rural areas.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said the list of restricted countries was out of date, but did not provide an update.

She added that the figures could include doctors given short-term development opportunities through the Government’s Medical Training Initiative.

“This list shows countries that hospital trusts have rightly been instructed not to target with recruitment campaigns for humanitarian reasons,” she said.

“As you would expect, there is nothing to stop individuals from these nations being employed by the NHS.

“EU workers play a vital role across the health and social care system and we want them to continue to do so.

“Over 6,300 more have joined the NHS since the referendum, and we continue to encourage those living and working in the UK to apply for settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme.”