NHS helps medically qualified refugees build new lives in Sandwell and West Birmingham

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The innovative work that is being done to support medically qualified refugees to make a key contribution to the local NHS is being highlighted during Refugee Week by NHS Sandwell and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group.  Refugee Week runs from 17 – 23 June and celebrates the contribution of refugees.

The local NHS in Sandwell and West Birmingham is tapping into a wealth of clinical expertise in the refugee community which is helping people to provide for their families, rebuild their skills and make a valuable contribution to local health services.

In 2017, Lawrence Kelly, widening participation project manager at Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, set up the Use-It programme to help unemployed, medically qualified refugees and migrants in Sandwell and west Birmingham find work in the NHS. The project offers participants free English language classes and work experience in a clinical environment. In little over a year, Lawrence and his team recruited almost 200 people to the programme.

The Health Overseas Professionals (HOP) programme follows the successes of the USE-IT! project and is being rolled out by the Black Country Partnership into Sandwell and West Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Dudley and Walsall. The scheme provides training in the English language for medically qualified refugees to find a way to resume their medical careers, whilst putting much needed resource back into the local NHS.

The Refugee and Migrant Centre, based in Wolverhampton, has achieved national recognition in The Guardian Charity Awards. The centre offers wrap-around support, advice and guidance for asylum-seekers, refugees and other vulnerable migrants across the Black Country. It supports 4,500 clients a year and deals with 20,000 inquiries. Its services are delivered in more than 40 client languages.

The Doctors of the World scheme helps displaced people to access NHS services. Most of these are migrants in vulnerable circumstances, who are often prevented from registering with a GP by administrative, language or other barriers. They include pregnant women, survivors of trafficking
and people who have fled war. Safe Surgeries is a network of GP practices in Sandwell and West Birmingham committed to tackling barriers preventing access to primary care. Currently eight practices have signed up to the scheme with many more expected to join in the future.

Prof Nick Harding, Chair of NHS Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG, said:

“Refugee Week is an ideal opportunity to remember all those whose lives have taken a sudden and unexpected turn and who were forced to seek sanctuary. It’s also important to celebrate the skills and talents that they have brought and contributed t the country. Innovative programmes such as the Health Overseas Professionals (HOP) programme show how we are doing all we can as a health community to help people build new lives and benefit the local NHS with their medical skills and expertise.”

For more information on Refugee Week visit https://refugeeweek.org.uk/