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Last Updated: Friday, 21 April 2006, 12:41 GMT 13:41 UK
'Let down by UK' - foreign doctors
By Dominic Casciani
BBC News community affairs

Hundreds of young foreign doctors have protested outside the Department of Health in London over a sudden change in visa rules which effectively bars them completing training in the NHS.

The doctors, predominantly from India, say they have been betrayed by a rule change which means hospitals must give first preference to graduates from within the European Economic Area.

They say thousands will be forced to leave the UK heavily in debt and with no qualifications during the summer.

But the government has defended the move, saying it is protecting jobs for British graduates.

Some of the doctors told their stories to the BBC.

Dr Belinda Colaco, 32, from Goa, India

Dr Colaco has been in the UK for approximately a year. She completed her graduate medical training in India but wanted to follow the traditional path of many of her peers and complete her final training placements in the UK.

Belinda Colaco (left): Borrowed money to study
"I sat the PLAB exams [the competency test for overseas doctors], passed and was allowed to come here," she said.

"But since I arrived I have been unemployed. I have spent so much money to come here and study and now the government has taken away our permission to complete our training as doctors.

"I didn't expect a guaranteed job - but I was told I would get equal opportunities to compete along with other doctors in the UK, as so many doctors from India have done all these years.

"By taking away my right to seek work and finish my training, they have effectively destroyed my life. I just feel utterly destroyed."

Dr Colaco estimates she has spent some 5,000 to date - from preparing for the exams to gain the right to enter the UK, to writing countless applications every day of the week for posts.

"I borrowed a lot of money back home because I wanted to come here to get British qualifications before going into practice back home.

"But the key thing is that I would not have come here if we had not received the impression [from the UK medical authorities and government] that they needed us. We got that impression because they offer the Plab tests at home."

Dr Sumit Reisinghaney, 28, from Bombay in India

Dr Reisinghaney, based in London, graduated in India and decided to go for the opportunity of a few years' work in the NHS.

Sumit Reisinghaney: Hundreds of applications
"I came to the UK as part of a significant investment in my career and for the opportunity to learn within the British system.

"Since I arrived I have had some locum work but no proper placements. I have applied for hundreds of jobs across surgery.

"I have applied to every area of the UK, sometimes writing 20 applications a week. The costs of doing this are extremely high.

"Today, with this rule change, I feel very, very cheated. We were never promised anything - nor did we think we were. But we were told that if we sat our Plab exams, passed and came to Britain, we would have the same chance as others in getting posts.

"The new system will prefer EU doctors over us - to me that is simply discrimination because the decisions to fill posts will not be made on merit. If I return home now this investment will have been for nothing.

"Had I known how difficult it was going to be, had they been clear with us, I would not have done it."

Dr Nimze Gadong, Consultant Paediatrician, London

Dr Gadong has spent a decade in the UK and is based in East London. He said he would not have become the doctor he is today without being allowed to study in Britain. Although not personally affected by the changes, he warns the bar on non-EU doctors will have major implications for the developing world.

Dr Gadong: UK training 'critical for African doctors'
"I came here from Nigeria through the system which has now suddenly been changed. The medicine I practice here does not just benefit children here - I have linkages with my home country in Nigeria and doctors there.

"The change is not only unfair to overseas doctors, it is something that we frankly would not have expected from the UK, a country that we look to.

"I don't think the government has thought through the implications of preventing overseas doctors from completing training in the NHS. I cannot emphasise enough the scarcity of advanced medical knowledge in developing countries.

"It is only by being allowed to come here to Britain to study that a lot of doctors are able to take back with them vital skills.

"When I was studying in Nigeria, my teachers at medical school had all spent a part of the career in Britain. Can you imagine what kind of doctor I would have become without first my teachers having come here and learning the skills they then taught to me?

"I really believe that for doctors in the developing world, it is essential to have the British experience, even if just for one year. I would not have become the doctor I am today without that opportunity."




SEE ALSO:
Overseas NHS doctors 'betrayed'
21 Apr 06 |  Health
How Asian doctors saved the NHS
26 Nov 03 |  Health


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