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Tuesday, January 3, 2006

3,000 jobless Indian doctors in Britain


Hasan Suroor

British International Doctors' Association says situation is becoming "unacceptable"

LONDON: Hundreds of doctors from India and Pakistan, who came to Britain for better career prospects, are struggling to survive on borrowed money and charity, as the jobs they had hoped to find has proved elusive.

There are nearly 3,000 jobless doctors from India and 800 from Pakistan living in miserable conditions in and around London. Some have run out of money and with no immediate employment prospects in sight, they plan to return home.

To highlight their plight, a British newspaper on Monday published a photograph of unemployed overseas doctors queuing up outside Sri Mahalakshmi temple in East London for free meals.

At the last count, done in November, there were over 6,000 overseas doctors who have come to Britain in the past five years in response to calls by the National Health Service (NHS) for foreign medical staff.

They had hoped to find jobs after passing the Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board Test (PLAB) — a mandatory requirement for all immigrant doctors — but most of them are still unemployed months after passing the test.

According to a general Medical Council survey, a large number of those who passed the test in 2004 are yet to find jobs. The number of those who qualified last year but are still unemployed is reported to be even higher.

Visa renewal

Their plight has been made worse by the fact that every time they renew their visa they have to pay £500, and then there are additional costs for applying for a job. Some hospitals also charge for giving them work experience.

A doctor from north India said he had sent nearly 200 job applications since he qualified the PLAB test a year ago. His savings, he said, were running out and he would be forced to return home if nothing came his way soon.

The British International Doctors Association has warned that the situation is becoming "unacceptable."

"The numbers [of jobless foreign doctors] are unbelievable. These people have come to serve the NHS and there is chaos, confusion, and a total lack of care. There is no coordination between the Department of Health, the Home Office and the General Medical Council. It is totally unacceptable," chairman of the Association Prasada Rao told The Independent.

Junior doctors

Experts said that the overwhelming majority of these people were junior doctors, whereas what the NHS really needed were specialists and consultants. This was not normally made clear to the prospective immigrant doctors.

"Overseas doctors who plan to come here should be told clearly about their job prospects when they apply for visa," an expert said. He accused private recruitment agencies of making false promises , and givingforeign doctors the impression that once they passed the PLAB test they would automatically get jobs.


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