For Indian medical professionals, emigrating to the UK to seek out permanent doctor jobs is often considered to be an alluring career path. It is a well-trodden route filled with potential opportunities for professional success and development. However, becoming an Indian doctor in the UK does have its challenges.
Moving abroad and starting a new life in a foreign culture and language is always going to be a big decision, particularly when working in a field as complex, competitive and technically challenging as medicine. As such, anyone considering making this move will want to educate themselves on all of the positive and negative aspects of doing so, allowing them to make an informed decision on whether it is right for them.
One individual who successfully made this leap is Dr Partha Sarathi Mukherjee, a former senior NHS specialist registrar and consultant in acute medicine. With help from Medacs Healthcare, he was able to forge a distinguished career for himself in the UK, experiencing first-hand the various cultural differences that exist between Britain and India. Here, he shares his insights into how Indian doctors can thrive within the National Health Service (NHS) when armed with the right information and knowledge.
What makes the UK a popular destination for Indian doctors?
Moving to the UK to find work represents a well-travelled path for Indian doctors for a variety of cultural and historical reasons. For example, Indian medical schools frequently utilise the same textbooks as British institutions, meaning students are equipped with transferrable knowledge. Moreover, the liberal and multicultural society that exists in the UK makes the country very welcoming to overseas professionals.
Furthermore, the NHS is widely considered to be one of the best health systems to work for in the world. Not only does this present an excellent working environment in which medical professionals are able to significantly progress their careers, but it can also add far higher value to any CV as the institution is recognised around the world.
The country is also home to some of the most beautiful cities and stunning countryside, aspects that make living and working in the UK as an Indian doctor a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The cost of living is considerably lower in comparison to the USA and UAE, too.
However, non-medical issues can make the transition challenging. The difficulty of obtaining visas to travel to and work in the UK is one such aspect and has placed restrictions on the flow of talent in recent years. This factor must be taken into consideration by those planning to emigrate. "Very often, immigration worries are overtaking professional thoughts for non-EU overseas doctors in the UK," Dr Mukherjee commented.
How can Indian doctors work in the UK?
For those who are able to clear the administrative hurdles, living and working in the UK remains a relatively straightforward prospect for Indian doctors, though Dr Mukherjee noted that it is important to bear certain cultural differences in mind. For example, practices relating to patients' consent tend to work differently in the UK than they do in India, where the concerns of immediate relatives often take priority over those of the patients themselves.
He explained: "Indian doctors would often assume consent when he sees a patient in his clinic, and would, for example, proceed with an injection after seeing the forearm outstretched. But in the UK, it is still necessary to tell them 'now you will feel a sharp scratch', etc."
Other differences include the prevalence in the UK of care homes, intermediate care and nursing homes as alternatives to home discharges and the significant differences in end-of-life care methodologies, both for resuscitation protocols and palliative care pathways. As such, it is important for Indian doctors to familiarise themselves with these differences before they enter the UK.
What preparations do Indian doctors looking to move to the UK need to make?
When getting ready to make the move to Britain, there are a number of ways that Indian professionals can prepare themselves for the challenges ahead, according to Dr Mukherjee. He observed that many overseas professionals begin their NHS careers working in the countryside, where public transport links are relatively poor - as such, learning to drive, prepare meals and shop online are all essential skills.
The need to adjust to snow or colder temperatures ought to be a surmountable obstacle for most, due to the existence of decent heating facilities and warm clothing. Though, Dr Mukherjee noted that Indian doctors in the UK will need to work hard at getting to grips with regional British accents, especially the Scottish lilt - a skill that, in his words, "comes with practice".
What opportunities are available for Indian doctors in the UK?
Those who are able to meet all of these challenges head-on will find that there are potentially many more career opportunities available to them. Since training protocols in the UK are extremely traditional and structured, professionals passing through the system for six to seven years are likely to have automatically reached a certain minimum standard of knowledge and expertise, setting them up well for future success.
"I do understand that clearing academic IELTS [or OET], obtaining the Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB), visas or UK postgraduate qualification such as MRCP and MRCEM, obtaining General Medical Council registration, etc. are all major hurdles. But if you are good enough and lucky enough to have negotiated through all of these, the UK may offer you much safer placements, better financial dividends and greater career development compared to most other English-speaking countries." Dr Mukherjee concluded.
What's more, Indian doctors in the UK have a wider range of training opportunities available to them. CESR (Certificate of Eligibility for Specialist Registration) programme opportunities are paths that can be followed too, making the move ever more enticing.
Simona Bertolo, head of Medacs Healthcare's UK permanent recruitment division said, "Indian medical professionals are still held in very high esteem in the UK and so there is always a healthy demand for them within NHS trusts. Our team of recruiters are experienced and have a huge amount of advice for overseas doctors who may be daunted by the paperwork, or other challenges associated with working abroad. Every year our permanent doctors' division helps hundreds of overseas doctors to relocate to the UK. We pride ourselves on building strong working relationships with all our esteemed candidates."