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NRI doctors battle PPUD syndrome

Nearly 6,000 unemployed Indian doctors suffer from post-PLAB syndrome in Britain.

india Updated: Feb 08, 2006 14:08 IST

In a stark revelation of the plight of doctors from the subcontinent in Britain, an unemployed medic has said they are suffering from the "PPUD syndrome" (post PLAB unemployed doctor's syndrome).

Writing in the latest issue of the respected British Medical Journal, Surinder Sareen said the situation for the doctors - numbering nearly 6,000 and hailing mainly from India but also from Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh - was grim.

Sareen wrote: "In an effort to keep up an old medical tradition, I report a new syndrome, prevalent in the age group 25-35, but some cases are seen in the early 40s. Both sexes are equally affected.

"It is endemic in east London but sporadic cases can be seen all over Britain. It is mostly found in immigrants from the Indian subcontinent," said Sareen who lives in Grantham.

Some of the features of the syndrome, according to Sareen are:

Obsessive compulsive disorder: Patients check their CV again and again, showing it to every person they meet; constantly check their telephone in order not to miss any interview call (which never comes); keep checking the mail again and again; and are resistant to any counselling from others.

Hallucinations: Visual and auditory hallucinations of a job that exists nowhere and interview calls that never comes.

Omniphagia: Patients eat just about anything they can get and can be seen cooking strange recipes in the single pan they own. They lose weight.

Muskoskeletal deformities: For example, 11th nerve palsy, resulting in drooping of the shoulders; seventh nerve palsy, resulting in expressionless face and inability to smile; disturbed gait; and kyphosis, with inability to stand straight and keep their heads high.

Skin manifestations: dry skin from exposure to the atmosphere (no money for moisturisers) and dry long hair (hair cut is expensive, and females usually suffer from hirsutism (no money for bleaching and threading).

A senior doctor with the National Health Service said a major reason for the large number of unemployed Indian doctors was the increased frequency of holding the Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board (PLAB) test. This is a mandatory qualifying test for overseas doctors before they can be registered for employment.

The PLAB used to be held twice or thrice a year earlier. Now it is held twice or thrice a week. The success rate is also higher with the result that there are more doctors who have cleared the test but there are just no jobs going around.

After passing the test, the growing army of such doctors remain in Britain to apply for jobs despite facing unemployment, poverty and discrimination. But failure to get jobs means they need to repeatedly get their visas extended, which puts additional strain on their meagre resources.

First Published: Feb 08, 2006 14:08 IST