Jennifer Lee is desperate to work in the NHS. A doctor with Ivy League training, she has specialised in respiratory and intensive care medicine for more than a decade in New York. Her skills are crucial in the current crisis. But according to the Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK), she remains one of thousands of experienced foreign doctors being excluded from the battle against coronavirus by “unnecessary and hostile red tape”.
“I’ve been doing everything I can to get registered with the GMC [General Medical Council] and have just been stalled and faced roadblocks at every turn,” Lee said. “This is an international emergency; I’m a doctor and it’s my calling. It’s beyond frustrating to not be able to help.”
Lee, who moved to London eight months ago, is one of a dozen overseas doctors who spoke to the Observer about the difficulty of getting accredited in the UK. “So much energy and resources have gone into trying to recruit former doctors, many of them older and at higher risk, back into the NHS, when there is an eager cohort of us ready to go,” she said.
The GMC has used emergency powers to automatically register around 30,000 doctors who had retired, left the profession or are still in their final year of medical school. With one in four doctors currently off sick or in self-isolation, the demand has never been more urgent.
Dr Jenny Vaughan, law and policy lead at DAUK, called for greater coordination between the Department of Health and Social Care and the Home Office “to ensure that every single doctor who could be saving lives is able to do so”.
She added: “We expect the government to be pulling out all the stops to ensure that the GMC is enabled to register as many doctors who want to work as possible. We are still hearing from perfectly able doctors that their applications are being held up by unnecessary and hostile red tape.”