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Refugees doctors to join UK medics in coronavirus battle

Refugee organisations have called the initiative a good "first step" [Getty]

Date of publication: 17 April, 2020

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Hundreds of foreign-born medics, including refugees, have signed up to help the UK tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
Refugee medical professionals will join the UK's National Health Service (NHS) as medical support workers in a new scheme to help Britain battle the Covid-19 crisis, the Guardian reported on Friday.

The NHS' initiative aims to deploy international doctors and medical school graduates who have passed an English exam. Hundreds of foreign-born medics, including refugees, have signed up to support the UK's overwhelmed health care system.

The UK has joined countries such as Germany and Spain in implementing such an initiative, as the United Nations' refugee chief called for more countries to allow refugee health workers to support their coronavirus response.

"Refugees with proven professional competencies are ready to step in and contribute, if allowed to, under the supervision of certified health professionals," said Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for refugees. "We fully support such initiatives and hope they can be further expanded across [Europe] and beyond."

According to the Guardian, applicants and NGOs view the NHS' scheme as a good "first step" in allowing refugee health workers to access clinical roles, but urged the UK to let them work as doctors and bypass the existing bureaucratic, lengthy and expensive assessment process to do so.

Anna Jones of RefuAid, an organisation that supports refugee professionals, told the Guardian about 100 refugees have signed up for support roles.

Read more: Comment: Help us fight coronavirus, then go back to where you came from

Jones said the scheme is "a first step, not the end goal".

"It permits people to work in a clinical environment, but it doesn’t permit doctors to work as doctors," she said. "For people who are close to qualifying, they see it as a step back."

Hussam Allahham, a Cardiff-based Syrian surgeon who signed up for the scheme, told the Guardian he saw parallels between the Covid-19 crisis and his experience working at a field hospital in war-torn Syria.

"In Syria, you felt like you were fighting with death, trying to save lives," he added. "People are scared, death is everywhere."

Allahham, who has been in Britain for four years, has passed his language exam. Though he was due to sit the first of two conversion exams for overseas doctors in June, the second exam has been cancelled temporarily due to the pandemic.

"For me, a doctor's life is to try to save lives as much as you can," he said.

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