The University of Hong Kong has defended its policy of allowing doctors to pocket part of private patient billings as a means to retain talent against the global demand for medics. In May this year the university's medical faculty began allowing doctors to pocket up to half the medical fees they earn for the university through their private services at its Queen Mary teaching hospital. Under the arrangement, the university will maintain its 75 per cent cut of private service income, with the Hospital Authority taking 25 per cent. Doctors will get up to half the revenue that goes to the university, and the rest will go to their departments. The university doctors were not allowed to pocket any revenue from private cases in the past. Jacobus Ng Kwok-fu, the faculty's assistant dean, said: 'If the university doctors go to the private market, they can earn several times their current salaries. 'We hope that allowing the doctors to earn some extra income to narrow the gap with private doctors will help retain talent. We have a time limit on their private clinical sessions of eight hours a week. 'This can give patients more choice and maintain the stability of manpower in the university. We regard it as a win-win proposal.' Acting faculty dean Raymond Liang Hin-suen said that as there was a global shortage of doctors, it was a big challenge to recruit and retain staff. He said two professors at the department had recently resigned to teach and practise in Britain, which lacked doctors. He estimated that doctors could get 50 to 100 per cent higher wages in Britain, partly due to the high exchange rate. The faculty has plans to recruit 40 more teachers by 2012 on top of its current 200 places to meet the challenge of more students when the university curriculum is prolonged by one year under the 3+3+4 reform. On Monday, the legislator representing the medical sector, Kwok Ka-ki, said allowing university doctors to pocket income from private patients might encourage them to neglect public patients.