Intended for healthcare professionals


Refugee doctors in Britain: a wasted resource

BMJ 1997; 315 doi: (Published 02 August 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;315:264

Helping them would help the health service

  1. Anita Berlin, Senior lecturera,
  2. Paramjit Gill, Senior lecturerb,
  3. John Eversley, Senior research fellowc
  1. a Department of Primary Health Care and General Practice, Imperial College School of Medicine, Norfolk Place, London W2 1PG
  2. b Department of Primary Care and Population Sciences, University College London and Royal Free Hospital Medical School, London N19 5NF
  3. c Public Policy Research Unit, Queen Mary and Westfield College, London E1 4NS

    The exact number of refugee doctors in Britain is not known. Estimates suggest there are at least 200, equivalent to the annual output of a typical medical school. The disproportionate number of doctors among refugees is a phenomenon that has been observed in earlier waves of exiles, notably those fleeing Germany and central Europe in the 1930s. Refugees have made substantial contributions to professional life in Britain, particularly in medicine and science.1 2 The profound and all embracing sense of loss experienced by refugees3 4 is compounded for the many who are professionals, who feel that their skills and knowledge are unused while they must depend on welfare.5 They represent a waste of human potential that deserves greater attention and action from the medical profession.

    To practise in Britain doctors who qualified overseas must first gain limited registration with the General Medical Council (GMC) through one of four routes: sponsorship, membership of a royal college, passing the Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board (PLAB) …

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