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Giving back to doctors

Life and work in the UK

The UK is crying out for doctors. Meanwhile, highly skilled doctors who have come to the country as asylum seekers or refugees, are driving taxis or not working at all because of a lack of practical and financial support to help them register with GMC, finds Jennifer Trueland

In the words of retired consultant medical geneticist Sally Davies, it’s a ‘silly’ situation – but it’s one that Wales is ahead of the game in solving. What’s more, its innovative approach has just received a substantial financial boost as one of the recipients of a BMA Giving grant, which will help the project move to the next level.

WARD (Wales Asylum Seeking and Refugee Doctors Group) was set up in 2002 with funding from the Welsh Government. It is a flagship programme within the Displaced People in Action charity, still receives Welsh Government funding, and is managed and supported by the professional support unit of the Medical Deanery, part of Health Education and Innovation Wales.

The scheme is open to asylum-seeking and refugee doctors and dentists, who are supported financially and practically to undertake language and other necessary qualifications. This includes 12 hours of English tuition per week until they are ready to take the examinations, then are supported through the PLAB (Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board) exam process.

Those who pass, and achieve GMC registration, are then placed in six-month supernumerary posts, giving them invaluable experience of working in an NHS setting and an understanding of how healthcare is provided in the UK.


Necessary skills

Having worked as a sub-dean in the Wales Deanery, Dr Davies was aware of the work of the WARD scheme. But it was only when she retired that she began to take a hands-on role, as a director of the DPIA and in working with the participants, particularly around language skills.

‘I love it,’ she says simply. ‘I do quite a lot of work with the English tutor, supporting people to learn medical language, including writing letters and reports.

'These are people who were doctors and dentists in their own country, but when they have arrived here they haven’t been able to use these skills. If they’ve found jobs, it’s been as taxi drivers or something like that. But they have their medical skills to contribute, and in Wales, like the rest of the UK, we have a real need for doctors, so it’s a win-win situation.’


Project manager

Since 2002, the scheme has helped around 200 doctors and dentists and has supported more than 100 of these to GMC registration. But now it wants to appoint a project manager to help it achieve even more.

A £10,000 grant from BMA Giving (the charitable purposes subcommittee), which makes grants to healthcare charities, will allow this work to be taken forward, paying for a dedicated member of staff to work on the project one day a week for a year.

‘We’re delighted to receive this [grant] – it’s an important start for us, and will really help us drive our work forward,’ says Dr Davies. ‘Wales wants to be a nation of sanctuary, and this is a vital part of that.’

The BMA, through BMA Giving grants, has supported a variety of charities this year, including:

  • The Royal Medical Benevolent Fund, the UK charity that provides support to doctors, medical students and families who are in serious hardship. It has been awarded £20,000 to help establish a programme to support doctors aged under 40 to get back to work following ill health, disability and bereavement
  • EMMS International, which works in partnership with some of the world’s poorest communities to transform lives through compassionate, effective, and sustainable healthcare, was awarded £5,000 to contribute to a project involving restoration of dilapidated and dangerous clinic buildings in Malawi. The grant will cover provision of an essential healthcare package to a catchment area of 50,000 people in Malawi to help reduce cases of malaria, and cut maternal and infant deaths
  • The Global Anaesthesia Development Project was awarded £10,000 to fund NHS consultant volunteers working in Zambia to improve anaesthesia in local healthcare
  • Mental Fight Club won £5,000 to help with its initiative to run creative workshops to facilitate dialogue between the medical profession and those who experience mental ill health
  • NICHE International works to reduce infant and child mortality in Cameroon and other countries. It received £10,000 to help fund three trips to Liberia to train local staff to become instructors and teach newborn care courses to others
  • Shine Mentoring received £10,000 to assist in its aim of advancing the education of school children in London through the provision of mentors
  • StreetDoctors works with young people at risk of violence. It gives them life-saving first aid skills, giving them the confidence to act when someone is hurt, and hopes to change their attitudes to violence. It received £10,000 to support medical volunteers.

Find out more about BMA Giving


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