Refugees could be trained up as GPs to ease Black Country shortage
Refugees and asylum workers could be trained to work as GPs across the Black Country to help tackle staffing shortages.
Around 100 people could help relieve the ongoing staffing crisis, according to a regional health boss.
Chiefs are looking to recruit NHS staff from refugee and asylum seeker communities in a project that follows similar pilots in Middlesbrough, Lincolnshire and London.
The doctors will receive language support and mentoring as part of the scheme.
Before being able to legally practise they will have to pass 'clinical and language tests' and undertake GP training.
Bosses said the plans are at an early stage and are not intended as 'a quick fix'.
A thorough background check will be carried out before any of the refugee or asylum seekers are taken on, Andy Williams – Black Country Sustainability and Transformation Partnership lead said.
Mr Williams, who is also accountable officer at Sandwell and Birmingham CCG, said: "We estimate we will need an extra 154 GPs by 2022 in the Black Country, and there is a great deal of work going on to get us there.
"This includes raising the skill levels of other health professionals including clinical pharmacists, practice nurses and physician associates to free up GP time for the most complex cases.
"We are also looking at alternative recruitment opportunities including, for example, our local refugee community.
"We have identified around 100 refugees and asylum seekers who are clinically trained who could, with support and more training, work in the local NHS.
"The programme is in the early stages and isn't a quick fix, but it is an important part of our strategy to increase GP numbers in the Black Country.
"It is likely around 14 per cent of the refugees we have identified as clinically qualified could be employed as GPs in the NHS but only with rigorous further training and support.
"It will take a minimum of five years to get a refugee into clinical practice with extensive training to prepare them for what is required as an NHS doctor.
"They will have to pass clinical and language tests and possibly undertake GP training.
"We estimate it will cost around £25,000 a year to train a refugee doctor to work in the Black Country compared with the £250,000 it costs to train a medical student.
"As a first step, we are intending to introduce a scheme that enables refugee clinicians to volunteer as observers in local GP practices.
"They will have first-hand experience of what it is like to work in the NHS which will stand them in good stead for future training. But they won't treat patients.
"This requires careful planning before it can proceed, which includes carrying out a thorough check of their qualifications and CV, and a criminal record check, as we do with all clinicians working in the NHS."