Professor Jane Metcalf is the deputy medical director at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust.
I have seen many workforce challenges over the years in the NHS. With a chronic shortage of doctors and vacancies in medical specialties, finding new sources for recruiting to the NHS has never been more important than it is now.
As part of my role at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust I’m directly involved in a unique programme trying to tackle this challenge. We are working with qualified doctors who have sadly fled their homeland and resettled in the area as refugees and helping them get back into practice.
To do this, I have been working closely with a fantastic local charity - Investing in People and Culture, a researcher at Durham University and with Health Education England to establish the Resettlement Programme for Overseas Doctors (REPOD).
The refugees and asylum seekers are fully qualified in their own country but need vital help to pass exams to allow them to train here. This includes helping them pass English language and medical exams, secure clinical experience, help from an experienced mentor in our hospitals and support with applying for jobs. This is a challenging process, but by providing these doctors with advice and support we can make it is easier for applicants.
It was extremely disappointing for me to see qualified doctors working in roles where their clinical skills weren’t being utilised. It’s been really pleasing to see in the last few months that the programme has already helped two doctors secure roles at the hospital. We have helped them realise their dream of returning to practice while filling much needed vacancies – it’s a real success story for everyone involved and I’m delighted to be a part of the team. Many more doctors are waiting for exam results and are starting their clinical placements and we are now moving on to supporting the third cohort.
I feel the programme is undeniably important and the advantages are numerous. Not only does it help fill crucial vacancies and resettle skilled individuals, it has financial benefits too. The cost of training a doctor in this country can be as much as £250,000. Training a doctor through this programme costs a fraction of that – as little as £5,000.
This programme has shown both humanitarian and practical benefits, through restoring self-esteem and hope as well as addressing part of the clinician shortage in the UK. I believe that there is now a strong argument for national coordination.
In November as part of the REPOD Programme, I will be involved in hosting a national conference in Durham aimed at those wishing to support the establishment and extension of similar schemes as well as develop and influence national policy. We very much welcome input from those interested in working with us.
For information about the scheme and about joining the national conference please email Julie.Egan2@nhs.net. You can also read the full case study on the programme.