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Refugee GPs from Syria and Iraq recruited for NHS under new scheme



The Scottish Government is targeting refugee doctors, from countries including Iraq and Syria, for a new NHS retraining programme that will expose participants to general practice.

The scheme already has more than 40 qualified doctors signed up, from countries also including Sudan, China and Somalia, who will be tied to working for NHS Scotland upon completion of their retraining.

The retraining includes language, linguistic and clinical tests set by the GMC, which they have to pass before being allowed to practice in the NHS.

The New Refugee Doctors Project, run by the Bridges Programme, will be funded by £161,692 from the Scottish Government and will also see participants given access to professional mentoring in GP practices.

Of the funding, around half will go to supporting refugee doctors with English language provision and the other half will go to funding clinical placements.

More than six practices in Glasgow are currently involved in the scheme, with a further four practices having expressed interest in joining it.

The doctors on the scheme could be GMC registered as soon as the summer, with some expected to go on to work in rural practices around the country.

It comes as NHS Scotland is struggling with long-running recruitment problems, especially in general practice.

The BMA warned in December that more than a third of GPs in Scotland are planning to retire from general practice within the next five years.

And the Scottish Government is already trying to attract GP trainees to hard-to-fill rural, remote and deprived area posts by offering £20,000 ‘golden handshakes’.

Maggie Lennon, founder and director of the Bridges Programme told Pulse: ‘Scotland has more than 300 GP vacancies, we sorely need more practitioners.

‘This is one of the reasons were are putting the doctors participating in the scheme in front of GPs.’

Dr Greg Jones, clinical lead at NHS Education for Scotland, said: ‘The additional funding will be focused on giving doctors on the scheme additional language training to get them up to and through PLAB.

But he added: ‘We don’t know how many more doctors will join the scheme, it depends on the number of asylum seekers and refugees that are let into the country.’

Dr Peter Bennie, chair of BMA Scotland, said: ‘The BMA is pleased to be supporting the refugee doctor programme.

‘By helping people to utilise their skills, the scheme not only supports them to make connections and to integrate into their new communities, but ensures that the NHS will benefit from those skills too.’

Overseas GPs targeted around the UK

English areas have also targeted overseas GPs for hard-to-fill posts. Pulse reported in September on plans floated in Cumbria to target refugee doctors for GP posts.

Meanwhile, NHS England’s programme to recruit GPs from the EU has seen the first wave arrive in Lincolnshire. The programme forms part of NHS England’s GP Forward View pledge to recruit 500 GPs from overseas.

Pulse also reported in December that Lakeside Healthcare in Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire was making visits to China and India to attract young medical students to come and train as GPs in their super practice.

The wideranging plans from around the UK come despite health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s pledge in October for the NHS to start relying on ‘homegrown’ doctors.