Initiative to unearth medical talent in refugee community praised

25th Jan 2019

Hearing about an innovative project to attract qualified medical personnel into local NHS organisations, John Spellar MP for Warley was keen to find out more, so paid a visit to The Learning Works in Smethwick.

Brainchild of Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust’s Lawrence Kelly, the scheme taps into a wealth of clinical expertise in the refugee community, which had previously been ignored or inaccessible due primarily to language barriers. But the Health Overseas Professionals (HOP) programme provides training in the English language for medically qualified refugees to find a way to resume their medical careers, whilst putting much needed resource back into the local NHS.

HOP follows the successes of the USE-IT! project, which is testing a similar skills matching programme in Sandwell and West Birmingham. The Learning Works has collaborated with local organisations to identify and support skilled overseas medical practitioners and the programme has proved the potential for implementing a tailored system of support. 

Lawrence explained: “By working with our local communities we’ve found 180 people who fit the scheme criteria. This far exceeds our initial target of 60 when we set up the programme. Examples include GPs, nurses, pharmacists and even highly trained medical and surgical consultants.
“The feedback from those we are helping has been amazing. The fact is that people who chose medicine as a career did so because they want to help people, and it can be frustrating not to be able to practice, due to being displaced from your home country. As they rebuild their lives here, it is good to be able to offer them the tools to improve their English language skills and get back to work, caring for those who need it.”

John Spellar agrees. H
e said: “This is a great initiative allowing people to provide for their families, rebuild their skills and careers and to give something back to this country. Full marks to the Trust for their initiative and I also want to ensure full cooperation from the medical colleges to ensure this works to the best degree possible.”

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