We have worked with Kurdish and Arab doctors from Iraq who had been instructed to punish so-called criminals by surgically removing their noses or ears. On refusing, they were thrown into jails where torture and summary execution were the norm.
An Algerian doctor fled in fear for his life after refusing to falsify the death certificates of those killed by the police.
Escaping to the UK is certainly not the end of their troubles, but they are initially grateful for any shelter and lifestyle. However, they are soon keen to achieve some sense of normality. This usually centres on a desire to get back to medicine, so regaining some of their identity through using their skills, earning their way and contributing fully to the society that has given them safe haven, and which needs extra doctors.
However, there are real difficulties to be surmounted. They are required to sit examinations demonstrating their competence in English, their medical knowledge and their ability to apply these skills in a way appropriate to the UK environment and culture.
They do not dispute that this is reasonable. Unfortunately, they often have no money for expensive medical textbooks, are not allowed to use medical libraries and get no exposure to British medical practice. Work placements are extremely scarce.
Professionals such as these need support through a short but crucial period of retraining for UK medicine. They are an asset to the UK - as many previous generations of refugee doctors have been - both to refugee communities and health services generally.
Dr SHEILA CHEEROTH
Queen Mary and Westfield College
London E1Reuse content