February 04, 2008

3,000 Indian doctors left jobless in EU-friendly UK

Indian doctors, who come to Britain in search of cushy jobs and a better life have lately found that life is not that rosy after all. Out of nearly 4,000 Asian doctors who came here recently, 3,000 from India and 800 from Pakistan, a majority is said to be struggling.

Quite a few have run out of money and with no employment prospects in sight, they are considering going back home.

A newspaper had published a photograph of unemployed overseas doctors queuing up outside the Sri Mahalakshmi temple in East London for free meals. Many are working, anonymously, in restaurants while the lucky few are working as assistants in pathology laboratories.

Dr Shiv Pandey, a senior doctor from Liverpool and an executive member of the British Medical Council, had campaigned for these unemployed doctors and even went to India to acquaint New Delhi of their plight. He said there was no hope for the new doctors to get jobs despite the fact that Britain has a shortage of medical practitioners. A few seniors also complain of racism.

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

The government earns a lot of money from the PLAB test, also held in India, and so holds them regularly. Most doctors come to Britain hoping for the kind of success their predecessors achieved in the 60s and 70s. Until recently, around 30 per cent of GPs in the NHS were Asian, most of them from India.

But as Dr Sisir Ray, who came here in 1966 and is a consultant at a Harley Street clinic, put it, the situation has changed. Preference is now given to doctors from the European Union and since its enlargement, a large number of them continue to come here. They do not have to appear for PLAB either.

Most senior consultants agreed with Dr Ray that young Indian doctors must be made aware of reality. Not long ago, the Health Secretary had said that those who pass the PLAB were free to come to Britain but there were no job guarantees.

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