Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

News Exclusive

Covid-19: Refugee doctors join NHS through innovative scheme

BMJ 2021; 375 doi: (Published 06 December 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;375:n2993

Rapid Response:

Refugee Doctors - from Medical Support Worker to a fulfilling NHS career

Dear Editor

The Medical Support Worker role is the most important development for refugee doctors in recent years. It needs to become a permanent part of an accelerated pathway to GMC registration and integration into the NHS family.

Although there are several well established schemes in the UK - REACHE in Manchester, WARD in Cardiff, Bridges Programme in Glasgow, a project in Lincolnshire and Building Bridges in London - there are large “deserts” in the UK where no support for our refugee colleagues is yet available. Trusts, HEE and NGOs need to see this lack as a problem to be addressed locally and supported nationally. The BMA convenes regular meetings for representatives of these schemes to share ideas, address concerns and liaise with the GMC. This group is a rich resource on which new schemes can draw.

Refugee doctors are not simply International Medical Graduates with no UK professional network. Many are experienced clinicians - GPs and specialists - who have had enforced career breaks of several difficult years. They need the same support we provide to other “Returners to Practice” including paid posts with enhanced clinical and educational support. Building Bridges works with HEE and our local Trusts to provide support with resettlement, integration, language lessons, preparation for PLAB exams and supported entry into NHS employment.

We are becoming aware of some doctors recently evacuated from Afghanistan who are living in hotels as they await dispersal and resettlement. They need signposting towards these professional support schemes.

Competing interests: I volunteer with the Refugee Council’s refugee doctors’ scheme in London

08 December 2021
Stephen J Nickless
Retired GP
Refugee Council