A terrible waste: JCORE conference highlights the cost to the UK of not supporting refugee doctors

The difficulties facing refugee doctors when they try to requalify here were discussed last week at a conference that brought 50 health professionals including refugee doctors, UK-trained doctors and service providers.

The event was organised by The Jewish Council for Racial Equality (JCORE), which has been supporting refugee doctors for over 20 years, and currently runs a mentoring scheme pairing them with UK doctors (including many from the Jewish community) while they retrain.

One of the doctors mentored by the JCORE scheme is Abrahim Khairandesh, who came from Afghanistan in 2013 and is now a doctor at the Whittington Hospital in north London. Dr Khairandesh told the conference how, despite many years of training in their country of origin, doctors then have to spend a further seven years re-training in the UK, under the stringent requirements of the UK medical authorities. But the obstacles are huge and many refugee doctors don’t last the course, especially outside London where less support is available, with some giving up and ending up as cab drivers.

Louise Salmon, from the Refugee Health Professionals programme at the Refugee Assessment and Guidance Unit (RAGU), explained the lengthy process refugee doctors need to undertake to requalify, and Dr Stephen Nickless from the Refugee Council outlined the importance of language skills and how doctor-patient language requires a higher level of nuance than everyday English conversation.

Dr Edie Friedman, Executive Director of JCORE said, “Training a doctor from scratch costs £300,000 but retraining a refugee doctor costs a fraction of that—only £25,000. We must stop this terrible waste of talent and enable more refugee doctors to requalify, for the benefit of all.”

Many creative ideas were discussed at the conference to better support our refugee doctors, to help them to feel valued and to integrate them into the healthcare system.