A large number of overseas doctors, mostly from India, who had flocked to Britain in response to the United Kingdom National Health Services' global appeal for more staff, are facing unemployment, poverty and discrimination, a report said on Monday.
More than 6,000 doctors who passed the Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board (PLAB) test face months of hardship and many may never obtain jobs and return home peniless, UK daily The Independent reported.
The report said many of the doctors who are living on the fringe flock the Shri Mahalakshmi Hindu temple in east London, every evening to get free food.
A survey by the General Medical Council shows that less than half of those who passed the PLAB test in summer 2004 found work within six months, and a quarter were still unemployed a year later. The situation is likely to worsen this year.
The British International Doctors' Association has accused the government of exploiting the situation by charging doctors hefty fees each time they renew their visa. NHS trusts also charge doctors hundreds of pounds to take them on for a few weeks of work experience so they can improve their chances of getting a paying job.
"It is absolutely diabolical. The numbers are unbelievable. These people have come to serve the NHS and there is chaos, confusion and a total lack of care. There is no co-ordination between the Department of Health, the Home Office and the General Medical Council. It is totally unacceptable," Dr Prasada Rao, chairman of the association and a general practitioner in Stoke-on-Trent, said.
Ramesh, one of the doctors at the temple, qualified in Bangalore five years ago and arrived in the United Kingdom in August. He has applied for 100 jobs in anaesthetics, but has had no interviews since passing the PLAB test in September.
"Everybody has the hope of a better career and a better life. But when we come here we are disappointed and get depressed. I have lost almost all my savings. I will stay one or two more months and see how things work out," Ramesh, who took the PLAB test, said.
"I came because Britain was short of doctors and I wanted some training," he said. "There was no indication it would be so tough to get a job," he said.
Rohit, 28, from Punjab, qualified as a doctor in 2002. He passed the PLAB test a year ago and has made between 150 and 200 applications for clinical attachments -- unpaid work experience. He has had one post -- a three-week attachment which cost £100 pounds (paid to the NHS trust), plus £50 for the medical tests that he was required to take.
The GMC, which administers the test, said it had no control over the numbers applying, the report said.
The health department said it was considering allowing overseas doctors to apply for jobs from their home countries.