Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW), and previously the Wales Deanery, have for many years worked on behalf of refugee doctors and dentists, who have fled persecution in their own countries to seek asylum in the UK, and who now wish to rebuild their careers here.
It can be difficult to integrate into the UK medical system. The process is frustrating and may feel unattainable due to financial constraints and other practical obstacles. Refugee doctors are often forced to rely on social security benefits instead of contributing their skills and knowledge to the NHS.
In response, in 2002, the Wales Asylum Seeking and Refugee Doctors and Dentists (WARD) group was established in order to address the education and training needs of refugee/asylum seeker doctors in Wales and to help meet the standards required to enter the labour market.
The overall objective is to ensure that doctors seeking sanctuary in Wales have an opportunity to gain GMC registration, thereby enabling integration and inclusion in society whilst providing extra workforce for NHS Wales. The Welsh Assembly Government recognises that facilitating the integration of refugees and asylum seekers will assist in maintaining future doctors’ numbers within the NHS in Wales.
WARD offers weekly tuition on the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and Occupational English Test (OET) as well as covering the costs of these language examinations. WARD also supports its members practically and financially to successfully pass the Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB)1 and PLAB2 examinations. Supernumerary posts are allocated for refugee doctors who have successfully completed the PLAB 2 examination, who are not registered with the GMC and are ‘job ready’.
To date, 235 doctors and dentists have benefited from the project.