UK health outrage as ‘exploited’ foreign doctors fear for patients

NHS system is 'totally broken' says BBC Radio Cornwall caller

We use your sign-up to provide content in ways you’ve consented to and to improve our understanding of you. This may include adverts from us and 3rd parties based on our understanding. You can unsubscribe at any time. More info

Doctors from foreign countries who say they were being treated poorly have raised the alarm over patients’ health in what the British Medical Association (BMA) has called a “shocking situation”. Evidence has shown that doctors being recruited from Nigeria by a British healthcare company are working under conditions in private hospitals that would never be permitted in the National Health Service, a BBC investigation has found. The BMA has now urged the sector to be brought in line with NHS working practices in order to give these doctors proper rights and uphold the safety and health of their patients. 


One doctor has even compared his working conditions to being in “a prison” given that he is not allowed to leave the hospital grounds and has to be on call 24 hours of the day for weeks at a time. 

Augustine Enekwechi, who was interviewed by the BBC, added that his tiredness became so intense that he feared he would not be able to function properly, which potentially posed a risk to the people he was treating. 

He said: “I knew that working tired puts the patients at risk and puts myself also at risk, as well for litigation”. Mr Enekwechi added: “I felt powerless… helpless, you know, constant stress and thinking something could go wrong.”

Mr  Enekwechi was hired out to the Nuffield Health Leeds Hospital from a private company called NES Healthcare. The company specialises in employing doctors from abroad, a large bulk of whom come from Nigeria, and use them as Resident Medical Officers (RMOs). These are live-in doctors who mainly work in the private sector. 

Dr Femi Johnson, although he was sent to a different hospital, told the BBC has was sometimes expected to work 14 to 16-hour days and also ready to be on call overnight. He said: “I was burnt out. I was tired, I needed sleep. It’s not humanly possible to do that every day for seven days.”

In a survey of 188 Resident Medical Officers by BMA and the front-line lobbying group the Doctors’ Association that was seen by the BBC, it showed that RMOs were employed by NES but some were with other employers. Around 92 percent had been recruited from Africa and most,  81 percent, came from Nigeria.

Meanwhile, a shocking 34 percent of those surveyed reported bullying and harassment, with 47 percent citing unfair treatment and 31 percent reporting unregulated shifts. 89 percent said they worked over 70-hour weeks, which is far in excess of legal limits and advertised contracts, according to the BMA.

Quotes from the survey include statements such as “the working conditions could be likened to slavery”. Another respondent said: “After spending 168 hours at work, I was made to stay an extra 24 hours in the same hospital and 12 hours again in another hospital. I was asked to go elsewhere again when I refused saying I was exhausted… It’s absurd that one would be made to work like a machine without consideration.”

Under the advice of the World Health Organization (WHO), “active recruitment” of doctors and nurses from developing countries with extreme shortages of their own medical personnel should be avoided. In the organisation’s list of 47 countries in this category, most were in Africa. The Government has a similar “red list” of its own including those countries, meaning British medical recruiters are supposed to avoid hiring staff from Nigeria. 

Emma Runswick, deputy chair of the BMA, has called this a “disgrace to medicine”. She said: “Our international colleagues have come a long way to the UK, and have found conditions so exploitative it beggars belief.”

Mr Runswock also told BBC’s File on Four programme: “The companies that are hosting these doctors need to take responsibility for the conditions in which doctors are working in these environments, The hours conditions are horrific, the standards of accommodation are poor, and even if they only care about patient safety and their own profits and their business, they really need to be taking responsibility for the doctors that are providing that care.

Dr Jenny Vaughan of the Doctors’ Association UK said: “Bullying, racism, unsafe hours, low pay and threats of withdrawal of visa sponsorship – it is just extraordinary that agencies have been getting away with this behaviour and it is an indictment of the authorities that they let this continue without redress. For agencies to take advantage of British hostile environment policies to push unfavourable conditions on doctors is the very worst of international recruitment practice and brings the entire model into disrepute.

“The lack of regulation in this area has meant that these practices have become the norm. The reason these agencies think they can get away with this is because many of their doctors don’t have the local knowledge on their rights so they are ripe for exploitation. This includes foisting on them contracts that nobody would sign if they knew what the NHS standard was. Tired doctors being forced to carry on is in nobody’s interest and is unsafe for patients.”

Energy outage as undersea cables near Nord Stream pipeline cut [REPORT] 
Britain facing exodus to warm EU countries to save on energy bills [REVEAL] 
UK facing exodus of science and tech firms [INSIGHT] 

A Nuffield Health spokesperson has said in a statement: “The health and well-being of our patients and our hospital team members is our priority. We, like other independent UK hospital providers and the NHS, use NES Healthcare to engage Resident Medical Officers (RMOs) – junior doctors in training – to support our hospital services.”

The spokesperson added: “We are committed to continuous improvement in our workplace environment so that RMOs feel comfortable communicating openly about their workloads and well-being.”

NES Healthcare also told the BBC that “feedback about doctors’ experiences” with the company was “extremely positive”.

This comes as doctors and nurses are mulling over whether to take industrial action in the coming months as they are concerned not just over pay, but also over the “moral injury” they are suffering as they struggle to deliver the best quality care for patients due to pressures on staffing, with a shortage of doctors, nurses and care workers putting enormous strain on the health service. 

Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting told The Guardian: “They just don’t feel the cavalry is coming. What the staff of the NHS are crying out for is a credible workforce plan. They know it won’t be delivered overnight. But at the moment, we’re not seeing any sign of that long-term thinking.”

Meanwhile, leading doctors have warned that the NHS is “in danger of complete collapse” after a poll showed that more than two in five of the most senior hospital medics are planning to leave the health service this year. 

Source: Read Full Article