Thursday, April 09, 2020

The GMC should fast-track 500 refugee doctors to serve in the NHS

I have had an email from the General Medical Council, the disciplinary body of the medical profession, in response to my letter of last week, in which I charged them with being professionbally negligent in failing to grant immediate temporary licenses to practice to about 500 refugee doctors. Some of these docs have practiced medicine in places like Syria. They are used to extreme situations. I asked them to fast track these doctors into the NHS on a probationary basis - that it, that after say, three weeks in practice, their peers could say if they had any problems in practicing. The GMC has referred my letter to their own complaints board. Here is my reply:

Dear xxxx

Thank you for this [email], but I did not intend to complain. I do intend to persuade the GMC that they should fast-track the foreign-registered doctors so that they can work in the NHS in as short a time as possible. The GMC must realise that the Covid-19 pandemic is causing a crisis in the NHS, with a shortage of doctors due to illness and quarantine. The shortage of doctors at a time of unprecedented demand leads to stress, and stress is known to lower the effectiveness of the immune system. This, combined with the shortage of PPE, makes doctors, although young, vulnerable to a fatal outcome when they do succumb to the disease. I hope you can see that there is a positive feedback system in play here.

You may argue, "Well, there are only about 500 foreign - registered and refugee doctors, what difference would they make?" The answer is that every doctor makes a difference. The day after I sent my last email, you restored my licence to practice. I am a retired GP, 73, with hypertension and paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, so I am not going to last for much more than a few weeks in the front line before I succumb, yet you feel the situation is desperate enough to ask me to come back into service. I am going to respond, and will apply for medical insurance soon. You want me, but you do not feel that a doctor with experience of emergency medicine in the Syrian war is going to be worth while to register? I find this impossible to understand.
I do understand that you need to check on a doctor's abilities in medicine and communication. The best people to make this judgement in the current crisis are that doctor's peers. Give them a temporary license, draw up a probationary contract, and ask the peers to judge on the doctor's value and abilities. If there is paper work to be done, do it while the doctor is working.
Please listen to what I am saying. I am not writing a professional letter, I am writing from the heart. There is a crisis happening out there, the NHS is crying out for more doctors, and there are doctors who are desperate to join the effort. Please put the official forms and protocols aside. Please rise to the occasion.
Yours sincerely

Richard Lawson

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