NHS 75 : The organisation helping refugees and asylum seekers get onto the NHS Frontline

  • Video Report by Granada Reports journalist Simran Johal

An organisation has helped over 600 refugees and asylum seekers become medical professionals in the NHS through its work.

REACHE (Refugee & Asylum Seekers Centre for Healthcare Professionals Education) is based at Salford Royal Hospital and is funded by NHS England’s Northwest Workforce, Training and Education team.

Its work is also supported by the Northern Care Alliance, one of the countries largest foundation trusts and the University of Manchester.

REACHE was set up in 2003 to help medically qualified doctors and nurses that have come to the UK after fleeing war or persecution.

It has trained over 600 refugee and asylum seeking healthcare workers over 20 years, returning them to frontline NHS practice. 

"We create that village, that the refugees and asylum seekers have lost," said Dr Aisha Awan, Director of REACHE.

"We allow them to get used to the culture and the language, but then it's also getting these highly qualified intelligent people back to what they want to do, helping people."

The programme helps teach these communities English and gives them the clinical training to go out and work as NHS staff.

The group helps refugees and asylum seekers pursue or get back their medical careers. Credit: REACHE

Dr Ruhullah Haji fled to Ukraine following conflict in Afghanistan, and then was made a refugee again after war broke out in Ukraine.

He is currently involved in the REACHE English programme, and hopes to once again be the interventional cardiologist he was back home.

"The NHS is a culture. The NHS is a community. The NHS for me is an institution that lets you live in the UK as a medical doctor," he said.

For many refugees and asylum seekers, getting any remnants of their old lives back becomes difficult as they are thrown into a world so different from their own.

This includes their careers which for many are completely forgotten about.

"I would work as as a driver if I could get my license back or work as a waiter in some restaurant, or a delivery driver," added Dr Haji.

"I spent the best years of my life studying and now not giving back to people, I think it's a big loss for everyone."

Dr Salih Suliman came to the UK from Eritrea and became a REACHE alumni who now works as as a Junior Doctor.

Dr Suliman said: "I felt amputated. I didn't have hope to pursue my career."

"I believe the NHS impacted my life hugely, helping save my life as well...as we are trying to save other peoples lives."

People who have claimed asylum in the UK can apply for permission to work if they have been waiting 12 months for a decision.

But for many the possibility of having even the tiniest part of their old life back seems impossible but the REACHE english tutors like Michelle Brennan have seen the difference.

"They look completely different, the light is back in their eyes. Their shoulders are back. they've got their professional identity back," she said.

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