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Friday, 17 May, 2002, 12:23 GMT 13:23 UK
Refugee doctors can help NHS
Surgeons, generic
Some refugees could be put to good use as doctors
Qualified doctors who have fled trouble-torn countries for the UK could help solve the NHS recruitment crisis in Wales.

Pressure groups estimate there are at least 20 refugee doctors living in Cardiff alone, and say they should be given financial help and support to gain UK registration to allow them to work here.

Doctor
The NHS has a shortage of qualified doctors
Latest statistics show that there are almost 150 vacancies for doctors in Wales, and to train a doctor from scratch costs as much as 200,000.

Efforts are being made to identify all the refugee doctors based in Wales - and to persuade the Welsh Assembly to do more to help them.

The Refugee Council and the British Medical Association say there are 500 registered refugee doctors in the UK - the majority are from Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran.

It is believed the register represents only a small fraction of the total number of medically-qualified asylum seekers, which may be as high as 2,000.

Difficulties

At present, qualified non-EU doctors must pass a General Medical Council English language examination, as well as the Professional and Linguistics Board Examination.

But many refugees are unable to take the tests because of financial difficulties.

Reverend Alan Edwards, of Displaced People in Action, said the costs involved in gaining official recognition by the medical profession were often probihitive.

"The English test itself - if you go through the full course - costs around 1,200," he said.

Rev Aled Edwards, Displaced People in Action
Rev Aled Edwards : support is needed

"If you're living on a voucher, it can be hard to meet that financial burden."

Rev Edwards said he was aware of many foreign doctors intent on achieving registration.

Dr Mohamad Idris fled his native Sudan two years ago, and has been settled in Cardiff with his family since January.

An opponent of the fundamentalist government, he had previously worked as a senior psychiatrist in the south of the country.

He is now working hard to improve his English and gain the qualifications he needs.

But he is struggling to meet the financial requirements of the task.

"The exams are too costly," he said, "Every time you have to pay around 75."

Earlier this week, it was revealed that hundreds of refugees were applying to be students on Britain's first tailor-made course for overseas doctors wanting to practise in the UK.

The course for 30 students is due to start at Queen Mary's School of Medicine and Dentistry, London, in September.

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 ON THIS STORY
BBC Wales's Susie Phillips
"Refugee doctors face several problems before they can work"
See also:

19 Dec 01 | UK Politics
'Refugees could plug jobs gap'
02 Oct 01 | Health
'We need refugee doctors'
08 Nov 98 | Health
Refugee doctors 'wasted'
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