Helping new doctors flourish

International Medical Graduates (IMGs) with refugee status based in London can access help to prepare them for life and work in the NHS via the Building Bridges programme organised by the Refugee Council and the Refugee Assessment and Guidance Unit (RAGU) at London Metropolitan University. Many of these doctors come from war torn countries in the Middle East and Africa.

I have worked as a GP and an educator in the NHS for over 35 years. In 2017, when I decided to reduce my clinical work to less than full-time, I was delighted to join the Building Bridges programme as a tutor.

Pre-pandemic the tutors took it in turns to attend the weekly professional meetings based at the Refugee Council’s premises in Stratford. But in March 2020 the world turned upside down when the Covid pandemic hit UK shores. The Refugee Council was quick to switch to meeting virtually, and the weekly meetings turned into a lifeline for isolated professionals to share what it was like to live and work in a pandemic.

Making a difference

Many of the IMGS on the programme were working for their professional UK exams which were delayed and disrupted during the pandemic. Extra support was provided by setting up three subgroups for an additional weekly meeting to help them prepare for these exams. Attendee numbers increased as virtual access meant that some doctors, for example women with young children, found it easier to attend meetings.

As tutors we help our students with communication and consultation skills and by sharing our knowledge of NHS and UK culture.

It has been a privilege to see these doctors flourish, pass their exams and move into working in the NHS as doctors at a time when their professional skills and expertise are so much in demand.

About the writer

Dr Mona Aquilina is the Chair of the RCGP Later Career and Retired Members group and is a General Medical Practitioner and GP educator based in London.