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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Protecting overseas doctors

More than 11,000 overseas doctors registered to practise in the UK last year, the highest number ever, according to the regulatory body for the medical profession. The GMC, which registers and regulates doctors, said 11,106 overseas doctors had joined the medical register for the first time in 2003.

The majority of the doctors, 9,336, came from outside of Europe ­ more than double (4,880) the number in 2002 when 4,456 registered. But the number of doctors registering from European Economic Area countries also increased, rising by 322 ­ from 1,448 to 1,770. As a result of the large increase in overseas registrants, record numbers of doctors joined the UK medical register last year ­ 15,549 compared with 10,192 in 2002.

But not enough is being done to guide or protect overseas graduates. Scores of PLAB qualifiers are struggling to get any job.

Survey after survey concludes that racsim is inherent in the system but nothing is ever done about it. The Kings Fundconcluded in 2001 that bullying and discrimination were a daily fact of life for black and Asian doctors.

A survey last June by the BMA of the careers of 476 doctors who qualified in 1995 found: 'Racism is manifest in access to training and careers, and in norms of acceptable behaviour. The system is sustained by the reluctance of trainees to complain.'

The British International Doctors Association and Indian Medical Association need to join hands to protect the interests of newcomers and improve the conditions for all the overseas doctors employed in the NHS. Otherwise the existence of these bodies is meaningless.

Dr Kailash Chand

Ashton-under-Lyne

Lancashire

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