Dr Blogs

We owe overseas doctors more than an induction

It’s taken a long time to come to a rather obvious answer.

Overseas doctors need more support when working for the NHS – and a good place to start would be with a useful, comprehensive and consistent induction process.

This is one of the conclusions of the GMC’s State of Medical Education and Practice report.

It says that more than a third of registered doctors completed their primary medical qualification outside the UK, and the medical profession is more ethnically diverse than the population it treats.

I don’t have a problem with this (as long as we’re not permanently robbing developing nations of their doctors). Overseas physicians have long made an enormous contribution to the success of the NHS.

But there’s no doubt that for some the transition to working for our health service is a challenging one. You only have to flick through the GMC’s diary of pending fitness to practise cases to realise how many overseas doctors fall foul of the regulator.

Many of the problems come down to communication issues. It’s over three years since Dr Daniel Ubani killed David Gray and yet we still cannot test the language skills of European doctors working in the NHS. And the stories keep happening.

Before we start talking about inductions, we must find the political balls – even if it leads to dispute with our European cousins – to facilitate the language testing of overseas doctors. (And while you’re at it Lansley what happened to the promise to renegotiate the opt out from the working time regulations).

Once we are confident that an overseas doctor is competent in English, and has been familiarised with our health system, we must ensure that they’re then given the same career development, support and training opportunities as everyone else i.e. they’re not just here to plug a service gap.

When there are concerns, we also have to ensure they’re treated fairly. Research suggests that GMC decisions about doctors who qualified outside the UK are more likely to have far reaching consequences for their careers.

So, a decent induction would be a start, but only a start.

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