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Tuesday, 2 October, 2001, 10:32 GMT 11:32 UK
'We need refugee doctors'
The NHS is short of doctors
Regulations should be relaxed to make it easier for refugee doctors to practise medicine in the UK, says the president of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP).

Professor Sir George Alberti said that refugee doctors could play a vital role in helping to ease the severe shortage of medical staff in the NHS.

This is a valuable human resource which should not be wasted

Professor Sir George Alberti
Health Secretary Alan Milburn admitted at the Labour Party conference this week that training up sufficient doctors presented a long-term challenge.

But Sir George said there were some talented trained doctors who would like to work in the UK, but who were prevented under current regulations from doing so.

Sir George called for a revamp of the UK regulatory machinery to make it easier for refugee and other doctors from overseas to get onto the register that allows them to practise.

He said this was not just important from a humanitarian standpoint, but crucial at a time when we have only half the number of consultant physicians needed to run a high quality service for patients.

He said "This is a valuable human resource which should not be wasted".

Regulatory bodies

The RCP will make suggestions to regulatory bodies in a bid to speed up the registration of such doctors, while ensuring standards and quality of care are maintained.

Last week Liberal Democrat health spokesman Dr Evan Harris said more refugee doctors seeking sanctuary in Britain should be used to fill the gaps in the NHS.

There are around 2,000 in the UK at a time when the health service is 10,000 doctors short, according to Dr Harris.

The government spends only around 40,000 each year on courses for refugee doctors but preparing all those in the UK to work in the NHS would cost less than 8 m, Dr Harris said.

He believes the same principle could be allied to other medical staff such as nurses who were badly needed by the health service.

See also:

10 Aug 01 | Health
Hope at hand for refugee doctors
08 Nov 98 | Health
Refugee doctors 'wasted'
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