16/06/2003

More assistance needed for refugee doctors says BMA

The British Medical Association (BMA) has called for refugee doctors to be given more assistance to pass exams necessary for registration in UK.

There are currently 865 refugee doctors on voluntary databases who want to work for the NHS, according to the BMA, and many are subsisting on state benefits of £37 per week.

The largest number of refugee doctors on the database are from Iraq (29%) and Afghanistan (18%), and just over half of all refugee doctors are resident in London. Other countries of origin include Iran, Pakistan, Somali Republic, Sudan, Congo, Russia, Sri Lanka and Algeria.

Doctors' specialties include obstetrics and gynaecology, paediatrics, orthopaedic surgery, anaesthetics, accident and emergency medicine – specialisms the BMA claim have "critically" few practitioners.

More than half the doctors on the database have taken and passed the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), and almost 65% of the doctors have permission to stay in the UK.

In order to work in the UK, refugee doctors are expected to pass the IELTS test and pass the Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board (PLAB) examination. Then, like all doctors, they need to gain General Medical Council (GMC) registration and compete for posts within the health service.

Dr Edwin Borman, Chairman of the BMA's International Committee, said: "Most of the doctors on our database are not working in the NHS, but want to. The health service is critically short of doctors and it makes moral and economic sense to help these doctors to practise in the UK, the country that has given them sanctuary."

He added: "There are at least 60 refugee doctors working around the country. We need to increase this figure. With the health service short of 10,000 GPs and at least a similar number of consultants we desperately need these doctors."

The database was started in May 2001 and doctors add their details to it in order to get help with re-training and finding work in the health service.

(GMcG)

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