Our doctors need proper preparation; Opinion.
BEING a doctor in the North East requires much more than just clinical expertise. To get the best care for my patients I need to understand the NHS and how it works.
I also have to be able to communicate effectively with my patients and understand the cultures of the people in the region I look after, as well as the ethical and professional standards expected of me.
Every year, around 12,000 doctors from the UK, Europe and countries around the world, start working in the UK for the first time.
The UK does not currently produce enough doctors and so we rely on these doctors to prop up our health service.
During their first day at work they will be bombarded with a huge amount of organisational jargon.
People talk about trusts when they mean hospitals.
Some NHS staff fire off three letter acronyms like they are going out of fashion. New doctors are expected to know their PCTs (Primary Care Trusts) from their SHAs (Strategic Health Authorities) and their BMAs (British Medical Association) from their GMCs (General Medical Council).
Overseas doctors also need to understand the roles of different medical professionals.
Being a GP in the UK is very different from being a GP in the United States, for example, where patients are much more likely to access hospital specialists directly rather than through their family doctor.
Perhaps more importantly, overseas doctors need to have an understanding of UK culture and how we deal with ethical issues, such as those that surround the doctor patient relationship, consent and confidentiality. The BMA, along with other medical organisations, has been calling for better support for overseas doctors to help them adapt to working in the NHS.
The BMA has a comprehensive guide to working in the UK on its website but more can be done.
The organisation that regulates doctors, the General Medical Council, yesterday announced that it would be developing a formal induction course to ensure doctors trained outside the UK get an early understanding of the ethical and professional standards they will be expected to meet. This is an important step forward to ensure that doctors trained outside the UK become familiar with how medicine is practised across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
There are some good local schemes for supporting doctors who are new to practice.
However, the GMC has evidence that some new doctors are starting with little or no preparation for working in the UK.
We owe it to overseas doctors and their patients to ensure they are properly prepared for practicing medicine in the UK.
Dr George Rae is chairman of the North East British Medical Association