Refugee doctors and international medical graduates set to help NHS in coronavirus outbreak

Hundreds of unregistered refugee doctors and international medical graduates will be able to work in medical support roles in GP practices during the coronavirus pandemic, NHS England has announced.

As part of plans to bolster the healthcare workforce, doctors without a GMC number or licence to practise will be able to undertake essential clinical tasks in practices or hospitals under the supervision of a relevant consultant, GP or GP nurse supervisor.

Applicants for the medical support worker roles will be deployed in multidisciplinary teams and will be allocated to providers by NHS England. Those who apply will need to have passed an English test (OET/IELTS) to work.

Refugee charity Refuaid told the Financial Times last month it knew of more than 500 doctors and nurses who had fled conflict or persecution abroad to live in Britain who were unable to work.

GPs self-isolating

NHS England added that the new role was suitable for those who have had medical training but may have been out of clinical practice for a significant period.

Meanwhile, it said those taking up the work would be able to use the experience as an opportunity to demonstrate foundation-level medical training competency.

Earlier this week a BMA poll revealed that more than two in five GPs say their practice workforce has been significantly reduced because of staff self-isolating during the coronavirus pandemic.

An inability to test frontline healthcare workers has meant that the current workforce has been depleted, despite repeated warnings from the BMA and other medical bodies.

Unregistered doctors

GMC registration and revalidation director Una Lane said the regulator provided 'a range of support to refugee and migrant doctors’, and would continue to ensure 'every doctor has the necessary skills and knowledge to practise safely’ in the UK.

The creation of the new medical support worker role by the NHS now means that hundreds of doctors will be able to offer their skills to GP practices and other NHS providers in need of support during the pandemic.

A GMC statement read: ‘As yet unregistered refugee and migrant doctors can now play a part in the pandemic response as medical support workers with NHS England. This will allow doctors who've passed an English test (OET/IELTS) to do some clinical tasks under supervision.

'We’ll keep supporting refugee doctors to meet our requirements for joining the register in future.’

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