Page last updated at 16:28 GMT, Thursday, 3 July 2008 17:28 UK

International NHS

Since its conception 60 years ago the NHS has been reliant on overseas health workers who have come from all over the world to work in the UK's health service.

As the NHS celebrates its 60th anniversary, BBC News website readers have been telling us about coming to the UK to work for the NHS.

DR YESHWANT OKE, BOMBAY, INDIA

Dr Yeshwant Oke

After doing a medical degree in Bombay, I came to the UK in 1961 to work as a doctor in the NHS. There was a trend in those days to come to the UK, NHS experience was highly valued in India.

I spent five years working for the NHS in hospitals around the country while I completed my post-graduate studies. Working for the NHS was wonderful, I gained fantastic clinical training.

Working in the hospitals was a real pleasure as I worked side by side with several consultants and learned something from each one. Patients had immense faith in doctors then. We were working very hard, even on my off weekends I used to come in and check on my patients.

I really feel that I worked for the NHS in its golden years. The NHS didn't have the problems with long waiting lists that it has now. These days medicine all over the world is more high-tech but patients and doctors don't have the same time to talk and build a relationship. I'm proud to have worked for the NHS, I'm retired now but would still drop in and do a locum shift!

DR KIM SOULSBY, OXFORDSHIRE, UK

Dr Kim Soulsby

I qualified as a doctor in South Africa and moved to the UK in 2001. I left South Africa for various reasons, the public health system seriously lacked funding and experienced doctors were leaving in droves. I felt I would get better training in the UK.

When I left the government had made some unforgivable blunders on treating HIV/AIDS. The health minister was recommending a diet of vegetables as a cure. Working in South African hospitals was very depressing, the AIDS crisis and the lack of funding meant the outlook was bleak.

I feel I made the right decision in coming to the UK. I now work as a registrar in anaesthetics in a hospital in Slough, there are so many pluses to working somewhere with money and resources.

The thing that frustrates me about the NHS is that some people have no respect for the system and don't take responsibility for themselves. I've seen people come to accident and emergency for sunburn or because they are drunk. Coming from South Africa where there is a real need for healthcare this seems ridiculous.

DR KAMAL SIDHU, SUNDERLAND, UK

Dr Kamal Sidhu

When I was a medical student in India, there was an aggressive marketing campaign to recruit new doctors for the NHS. Talks at medical school promised jobs and training but when I came to the UK in 2003 I realised I hadn't read the small print. There was a surplus of doctors and it was very hard to get a job.

I finally found a great job working as a GP in Sunderland. I feel fortunate to be working in a job that I enjoy but others have not been so lucky. Sudden changes to the immigration laws have meant that lots of overseas doctors have had to leave the UK, uprooting their families and often returning home in serious debt.

In India, doctors are considered as almost equal to God but in the UK you are more answerable to your patients. There are good sides to the NHS, it's wonderful to be able to do your job without worrying about whether the patient can afford treatment, as is the case in India or the US.

My visa is due for extension next year, it's hard as I don't know what will happen. Having trained in the UK, I feel I have a moral duty to work for the NHS to pay back into the system. I enjoy working for the NHS but the immigration laws have cast a cloud over my career.

ANTONIA STEVENSEN, CROYDON, UK

I came to the UK from Manila in the Philippines in 1969. I started working as an occupational therapist for the NHS but soon decided to re-train as a nurse.

I did my training at St James's hospital in London and spent most of my career working in various London hospitals. If I had to describe my NHS career in one word it would be "interesting". I've always worked long hours and had lots of patients to look after but I enjoyed the job. The money was good and I took great pride in being a nurse.

Nurses on the ward at Guy's Hospital in London

My NHS colleagues have been from all over the world. I've worked alongside nurses from the West Indies, China, Malaysia and Mauritius to name a few places. It's great to have international colleagues, you learn a lot about different countries.

In Manila a nurse's job isn't as tough as it is in the UK. Once you are a registered nurse you don't work the long hours we work for the NHS. I'm settled in the UK and have enjoyed being an NHS nurse so wouldn't consider going back.

DR RAGHU RAMASWAMY, PRESTON, UK

I came to the UK from Bangalore in India in 1999. Over the years I have become very disillusioned with the NHS. I have been discriminated against and passed over for training posts in favour of less qualified UK doctors many times. Sadly I feel that institutionalised racism is rampant in the NHS.

Sadly I feel that institutionalised racism is rampant in the NHS
Dr Raghu Ramaswamy

The government has taken the lead in this discrimination by changing the immigration policies without thinking of the consequences for foreign doctors and nurses. Many overseas doctors don't have permanent visas, just one example of how we are seen as expendable. The UK government actively recruited doctors from overseas but refuses to treat them properly.

I feel that not many overseas doctors have a future in the NHS, it's hard to find a training job without a permanent visa and impossible to become a consultant without training. The jobs left for overseas doctors are the unsatisfying posts that no-one wants.

I enjoy my current job in neurosurgery at the Royal Preston hospital but would not consider staying in the NHS and plan to return to India. It is sad that I have been left disappointed. Free, quality health care is a great concept so I hope the NHS can change for the better.


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