I would like to thank BDI Resourcing for organising this interview, it is an honour for me to be interviewed by them.
I would like to start by saying that BDI Resourcing has done some amazing work by creating their blog aimed at helping international doctors relocate to the UK and work within the NHS. I know how difficult it is to create a blog and the amount of dedication it requires. They, therefore, deserve a lot of credit for this reason. I am sure that countless doctors are getting guidance from their blog.
What speciality of medicine do you work in and at what hospital?
I currently work as an SHO at a rotational post in General Medicine at King’s College Hospital, London. So far, I have worked in the following departments: Stroke, Neurology, AMU, Geriatrics and Frailty.
Before this, I worked for 6 months in Renal Medicine and Transplant Surgery at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth.
Would you share with us your personal mission as a doctor?
My dream is to see a top quality and free healthcare system in Pakistan. I would like to take my experiences gained from working within the NHS and help with the development of a similar system in Pakistan.
But I do want to take it one step at a time. For now, I wish to move forward in my career, whilst helping my colleagues and juniors.
At what point in your career did you decide that you wanted to relocate to the UK? And what were your motivations for wanting to do so?
During my time at medical school, my aim was to attempt the USMLE and relocate to the United States. However, I always felt that it was a very difficult exam and I was unsure I would have been able to pass it.
I attended a career guidance seminar at Aga Khan University, Karachi in January 2014 and the seminar convinced me to sit the PLAB exams and relocate to the United Kingdom instead.
I chose the PLAB route into the NHS because I found it to be the shortest, easiest, least expensive and the most convenient pathway.
For you, what are the key benefits of living in the UK?
There are many advantages to living in the UK, but here are the most important ones to me:
A quick start: PLAB is an easy exam and it does not take much time
Quality earnings: The starting salary for a doctor is the same in the UK as it is in the USA, making the decision to relocate to the UK a lot easier
The UK is a welfare state
It is fascinating to see how a free healthcare system function’s
As a doctor in the UK, you will be in a position to make a difference
You will have the freedom to do whatever you like
British people are incredibly nice and friendly
You will have enough finances to buy any car in the world
As a junior doctor, you will earn enough to buy your own house
How long did it take you to relocate, how difficult was the process and do you recommend it to others?
I decided to sit PLAB in January 2014 and I started working in the UK in August 2017, taking me three years.
In fact, I should have started working in the UK in August 2015. However, I had to wait two years because of the CoS and visa rejections. The rejections myself and many other doctors faced hurt me deeply and caused a significant amount of depression for me. But I learnt a lot from the experience.
If it had not been for the visa rejections I would never have made my blog to help guide doctors to the UK on such a large scale.
I am blessed to be working in the UK and I cannot thank my parents and Dr Hamed Salehi enough for making this possible for me.
With regards to recommending others, I want people to know that the NHS has more jobs than ever before. The NHS is severely short of doctors and Brexit will create even more jobs for international doctors because we will be in the same boat as EEA citizens.
Please note that PLAB is a very easy exam – do not be afraid to sit it. We are blessed that there is so much guidance available online for doctors who wish to work in the UK. No other route has this amount of guidance and support available.
Having said this, people should weigh up the pros and cons of each route in the NHS and make their own decisions.
Is there anything you would have liked to have known before deciding to relocate? And now once you are living in the UK?
I cannot think of anything specific that people should know before coming to the UK. What I am grateful for is how nice people were to me on Facebook. Facebook was an excellent tool for building connections with people even before coming to the UK.
When I arrived in the UK, I did, however, know a lot of people who I learnt the basics about working within the NHS. These people were not active on Facebook and they learnt things the hard way.
My advice to doctors who wish to come to the UK is to join all the relevant Facebook groups and to keep their eyes and ears open to any advice doctors are offering.
How long did it take you to settle into the UK?
My first job in the UK was in Cosham, Portsmouth. It is a very nice, clean, green, quiet, small, wet and rainy town on the south coast of the UK.
I decided to live in hospital accommodation, which was only thirty seconds from the hospital entrance. The food market and the nearest train station were only five minutes away from the hospital.
I did not mind the fact that Cosham was a small and quiet place. I know this may surprise a lot of people, but I am a very shy and quiet person; I am an introvert. So, I was very happy in Portsmouth.
However, I must admit that I found the love of my life who lived in London. Therefore, after spending six months in Portsmouth, I decided to move to the UK’s capital. I was very happy and excited to move to London as it is the best city in the world. All your dreams can be made true in London.
The only downside to life in London is the expensive property rents. I live near King’s College Hospital, which is a very expensive area to live in. However, I must confess that I have easily saved the same amount of money as I was saving in Portsmouth. So, living in London is not only possible but you can even save money whilst living here. It all depends on how good you are at saving your finances.
But as much as I confessed earlier, I am a shy, quiet and private person so I do not go out much. As much as I love London, long-term, I don’t think the lifestyle is for me. So, I will try and get my training outside of the city.
How would you describe the support you received from your hospital after starting your new position?
I love the people in the UK.
The HR at King’s were extremely supportive towards me. They helped me with documentation, they also kindly arranged a two-week paid observership period for me.
The Consultants were also extremely nice to me, they were willing to give me the margin to learn and adapt to the system. Most of the registrars and SHOs were also very helpful and supportive.
Having said this, the first few weeks or months at your first job in the UK are bound to be difficult. It takes time to adjust and so you should be prepared for things to be tough at first. Whenever you change jobs, you will again have to adapt to a new system. Therefore, it is ideal to stay at the same job until you find training. On reflection, what I did by switching jobs was not ideal. But well, I wanted to get married and start a new life. So, I am very happy with my decision to move to London.
What are your views on the NHS as a system? Working within it and as a patient who receives care?
The NHS provides free healthcare to people regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity or financial background. The system is designed on the basis of humanity. There is nothing more beautiful than this. For me, it is an honour and a privilege to be part of this system.
When I fractured my finger last year, I became a patient of the NHS. I was treated for free. I was also given paid sick leave to cover my period of illness. I could not have asked for better care.
How do you find working in the UK compared to your home country?
Working in the UK is completely different from working in Pakistan.
There is a lot I can say here, but to keep it simple, there are two main differences between working in the UK and Pakistan:
In Pakistan, doctors are underpaid. In the UK we are given our fair share.
In the UK, making a mistake can be costly because of the lawsuits. Therefore, we must be more cautious and careful while working.
What are your hopes for the future?
My hopes for the NHS:
The NHS has changed the way that I look at healthcare. I have nothing but respect for the healthcare system in the UK. I wish to see the NHS saving more and more lives and making more and more people’s lives better.
My hopes for my country’s healthcare system:
I wish to see a similar system in Pakistan.
My hopes for myself:
I wish to become a GP and to make a positive influence and difference in as many people’s lives as I can.
Thank you so much for taking the time for reading this interview.
I would like to wish the best of luck to BDI Resourcing and I hope they can keep helping doctors as much as they can.