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'Indian doctors jobless in UK'

A number of doctors who have come to Britain in response to NHS's appeal for staff are living in poverty.

india Updated: Jan 02, 2006 20:52 IST
UK Bureau

A growing number of Indian doctors who have come to Britain over the past five years in response to the NHS's global appeal for staff, are still jobless, living in poverty.

A dozen jobless Indian doctors can be seen at the Sri Mahalakshmi Hindu temple in east London eating dhal, rice and potatoes off paper plates. A report says, that instead of finding hospitals ready to welcome them, these doctors face unemployment, poverty and discrimination, while depriving their own country of their desperately needed skills.

Their numbers have soared from 1,000 who passed the professional and linguistic assessment board (Plab) test - a requirement for all overseas doctors - in 1998 to 6,666 who passed in 2005 (up to 24 November).

A survey by the General Medical Council (GMC) shows that less than half of those who passed the Plab test in summer 2004 found work within six months, and a quarter were still unemployed a year later. The situation is likely to be worse this year.

The British International Doctors Association has accused the Government of exploiting the situation by charging doctors £500 each time they renew their visa. NHS trusts also charge doctors hundreds of pounds to take them on for a few weeks of work experience so they can improve their chances of getting a paying job.

Dr Prasada Rao, chairman of the association and a GP in Stoke-on-Trent, said: "It is absolutely diabolical. The numbers are unbelievable. These people have come to serve the NHS and there is chaos, confusion and a total lack of care. There is no co-ordination between the Department of Health, the Home Office and the General Medical Council. It is totally unacceptable."

Ramesh, 29, one of the doctors at the temple, qualified in Bangalore five years ago and arrived in the UK in August. He has applied for 100 jobs in anaesthetics, but has had no interviews since passing the Plab test in September.

He said: "Everybody has the hope of a better career and a better life. But when we come here we are disappointed and get depressed. I have lost almost all my savings. I will stay one or two more months and see how things work out."

Ramesh paid £620 to take the Plab test. Each job application costs £5 for the five copies of his CV that he must include. He pays £160 a month to stay in a shared room and visits the temple every evening to eat. "I came because Britain was short of doctors and I wanted training," he said. "There was no indication it would be so tough to get a job."

Rohid, 28, from Punjab, qualified as a doctor in 2002. He passed the Plab test a year ago and has made between 150 and 200 applications for clinical attachments - unpaid work experience. He has had one post - a three-week attachment which cost £100 (paid to the NHS trust), plus £50 for the medical tests he was required to take.

The GMC, which administers the test, said it had no control over the numbers applying. The GMC has posted details of the jobs market on its website, stressing that some posts attract more than 1,000 applications. There has been a sharp reduction in the numbers applying to take the test.

Hospital consultants and GPs are still needed but the expansion in UK medical school places and the influx from overseas has created a bottleneck, with too many junior doctors seeking too few training posts.

The health department said it was considering allowing overseas doctors to apply for jobs from their home countries.