Call for fast-track registration of refugee doctors

The government and the General Medical Council have been urged by refugee doctors to fast-track their accreditation so they can help the NHS tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

The doctors, who gained their qualifications overseas, say some of them have been forced to work as taxi drivers or in takeaways because the reaccreditation process in the UK takes too long, and is both expensive and onerous. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he would discuss the proposal to expedite qualified doctors from overseas into the NHS with health regulators, ‘to see whether we can find a way through for the period of this crisis’. This followed the Liberal Democrats’ Ed Davey urging the government to expedite matters so that fully qualified doctors from other countries would be able to help out in the NHS.

He told the Guardian: “The government must fast-track these highly qualified professionals so they can work in the NHS. They are able and willing to play their part in tackling this pandemic. The veto on asylum seekers working is outrageous. If we have asylum seekers who are qualified doctors why not bring them forward?”

Dr Mohammad Haqmal, a refugee from Afghanistan, said some migrants might be marginalised and not properly integrated into the system and so might not be receiving the correct public health messages about social distancing and staying at home.

Haqmal, who is a public health expert, said: “I’m doing data analysis. My background is in HIV. I believe I have a lot to contribute to helping with the Covid-19 pandemic. With no cure and no immunisation at the moment community awareness is key to tackling this pandemic. A mapping exercise to assess who in the UK is high risk if they contract the virus would be helpful. I haven’t gone through the process of reaccreditation to practise as a doctor in the UK because it is expensive and takes a lot of time. I’m lucky because I’ve been able to get a job doing medical research. But I know many other overseas qualified doctors who are working as shopkeepers or taxi drivers.”

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