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  1. ITV Report

Syrian doctor tells ITV News he cannot get into the NHS to help fight coronavirus due to strict English exams

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Dan Rivers

A fully-qualified Syrian doctor has told ITV News he cannot get into the NHS to help in the fight to tackle the coronavirus pandemic due to exacting English language tests which cost thousands of pounds to sit.

Dr Hussam Allahham knows what it is like to be a frontline medical professional during a crisis as he was a surgeon in Syria's rebel field hospitals during his country's bitter civil war

His journey to escape the conflict took a year and included a dangerous boat journey across the Mediterranean.

Since 2014, he has been living in Cardiff and now wants to get on the NHS frontline in a bid to give back to the UK.

He told ITV News Correspondent Dan Rivers: "I have some skills to repay this community, this society, to repay the people that helped me."

When asked whether this health crisis reminded him of Syria, Dr Allahham said: "In Syria it was different, it was... more surgical skills needed than here.

"Here is a bit different but the same panic, the same scare... the health system will be overwhelmed."

Dr Allahham has documented his life here and his dream of working as a doctor in the UK has been a constant thread.

Now he hopes he will be able to pay back his gratitude to Britain during its darkest hour of need.

Dr Hussam Allahham hopes he can repay the UK by using his medical qualification to help tackle coronavirus. Credit: ITV News

Walking through a hospital corridor, he said: "One day you will see me here wearing the uniform and saying 'hello doctor'."

He has been unable to practice because he has not passed the professional and linguistic assessment board which involves exacting English tests and costs thousands of pounds.

This week, the Liberal Democrats called for the rules to be relaxed on English proficiency.

Acting leader of the party, Ed Davey said: "I've spoken to a charity RefuAid who says they have 514 qualified healthcare professionals on their book.

"People who are willing to work, fully-qualified in their own country but there are bureaucratic barriers going forward.

"Will you please look at that this week, so people can help us out."

The Government has said it is considering a wide range of measures at pace but as yet as not announced any changes in the rules.

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know

On Tuesday, it was announced that doctors, nurses and paramedics from abroad are to have their visas extended so they can "focus on fighting coronavirus".

The extension will apply to around 2,800 migrant health professionals who are working for the NHS and have UK work visas which are due to expire before October 1.

They will be renewed automatically for a year free of charge so they can remain working in the country, the Home Office said.

The changes will also apply to their family members.