English UK members: helping refugee medical staff resume their careers in the NHS
Many English UK members had the pleasure of meeting Inna Soldatenko (pictured) at our members' conference in May 2023.
Supported by Wimbledon School of English and RefuAid
Inna was an associate professor of rheumatology in Kharkov before she, her parents and her school-aged daughters left Ukraine because of the war last year. She is grateful for the help given to her in requalifying as a doctor in the UK by English UK member centre, Wimbledon School of English through RefuAid – and is working for hundreds more to be able to offer their services to the NHS.
Ukrainian Medical Association of the United Kingdom
Inna is one of the medical group coordinators of UMAUK, Ukrainian Medical Association of the United Kingdom, which has approximately 700 medics, 200 nurses and 200 dentists as members. Most would like to requalify here in the UK and work in the NHS, but few are making much progress as they have to get their IELTS or OET English language qualification first.
"There is a very long queue to get online or face-to-face courses. Our health professionals are waiting months and months for a health preparation course and if possible we would like to identify more partners to participate in this important programme.
"All these health professionals want to be useful to the healthcare sector during this time. We all know about the shortage of doctors and nurses and professional staff, and we are here, ready to work. We don't want to be on any benefits. There's a bit of a difference between the Ukrainian medical system and here, but we really want to work. A lot of us are in admin jobs but we could be doing much more."
"When I arrived [in the UK] I hadn't had any thoughts about this and I was really frustrated and confused. I went on Facebook and said I was a rheumatologist from Ukraine and found 15 people in the same situation, and now we have 700 doctors as well as the nurses and dentists. Then we met Oksana Lovochkina, UMAUK project lead, and started all these processes to help our Ukrainian doctors get back on track."
Delays in requalifying
Just 10% of the UMAUK clinicians have so far passed the English exams required to begin the requalification process, and time is ticking down on their initial three-year visas. Inna has taken the first of two requalification tests – PLAB 1 – and only when she has passed both will the UK authorities request her qualifications from Ukraine and allow her to start again as a junior doctor.
Many of the group are supporting children or elderly parents and have to juggle English language learning around daytime work, which is why Inna was so grateful to find an online course.
The UMAUK is also busy working with various NGOs and governments and using the expertise of its members – and campaigning for more government support for skilled staff to learn the English they need and requalify in the NHS.
Also, UMAUK is working on multiple projects aimed at the recovery and advancement of the Ukrainian healthcare sector. It has worked to improve communication between the UK and Ukrainian governments, acting as a vital bridge to channel support and goodwill for Ukraine.
Ongoing initiatives span a wide range of areas, including mental health, training programs for frontline medics, a collaborative paramedic project, a prosthetic project, support for Ukrainian medics in the UK, a strategic paper for the Ukrainian Ministry of Health, hospital construction projects in Ukraine, medical supplies provision, and a project focused on transforming the Ukrainian orphanage system into family care homes, among others.
Could your centre help in 2023?
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Photo: David Rose, David Rose Photography 2023