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Workforce Update November 2021

Welcome to this month’s UK Workforce Update

Through these regular updates we will share with you some of the key developments in different areas of health and care policy, all through publicly available resources.

Displaced doctors in the NHS

The refugee council has estimated the cost of retraining a refugee doctor to qualify in the UK is 1/12 that of training a UK medical student. However, the estimated cost of £300,000 is disputed, as outlined here. According to The Lincolnshire Refugee Project, the BMA has details of over 600 displaced doctors in the UK. The BMA has recently published a summary of the path to qualification for refugee doctors and listed some of the support available to them, including from the Refugee Council, London Metropolitan University, Reache and NHS Wales. Refugee doctors who have not yet registered with the GMC but passed the IELTs exam were able to apply to join the NHS as medical support workers (full job description from the NHS here). As of November 2021 applications are temporarily closed and new information will be released on the NHS’s updates page next year. The Chief Medical Officer’s annual report (included in an early HLA:Think Determinants of Health policy bulletin) focused on the health inequities faced by coastal communities. In response, members of the executive team at The Phoenix Project published a rapid response in the BMJ arguing that refugee doctors should be supported to qualify to work in coastal areas as a partial solution to this issue.

Policy changes affecting the displaced community Before starting work in the UK displaced persons must gain refugee status. Updates relevant to this process are summarised below. On 4 November The Nationality and Borders Bill passed the committee reading stage in the House of Commons. The Home Office has argued that the Bill is intended to make the process of gaining asylum fairer and faster. Content of the version that passed an earlier reading is outlined in a collaborative piece from September between the charity ‘The Phoenix Medical Project’, Student Action for Refugees (STAR)’s Nottingham branch and the blog ‘Cited Sealed Delivered’. Responses to the bill include a report published in July by The Law Society questioning whether the bill is compatible with international law. An October brief by The ‘British Medical Association’ (BMA) requested clarification of the methods that will be used for age verification. The House of Commons Library also released a research briefing which outlined further concerns, including the practicality of the proposed changes. Analyses by prominent charities, include a recent critique of its contents by The Scottish Refugee Council and an examination of the bill’s claims by Amnesty International. A 4 November clause 9 (‘notice of decision to deprive a person of citizenship’) was amended to add the power for the government to remove citizenship without warning in certain circumstances. The Independent Chief Inspector published a report that found that the backlog of cases in the asylum system has continually increased since 2019. The majority of recommendations in the report, including introducing a published service standard and priority for unaccompanied children, were either fully or partially accepted by The Home Office later in November. Meanwhile, the BMA has recently published a toolkit detailing what NHS care a displaced person is entitled to. This follows a report written by the Refugee Council earlier this year outlining barriers experienced by displaced persons in accessing NHS care, including exclusion from primary care, digital and interpretation services.

Produced by Jonathan Bowley, Heather McAdam, Arrash Yassaee



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