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Q&A with Dr Alex Vallakalil, NHS Trust Grade Doctor Psychiatry

  • July 08, 2019


1. What is your name, speciality, grade and what hospital do you work at?

I am Dr. Itticheria Alex Vallakalil (better known as Alex). I work as a Trust Grade Doctor in Psychiatry with Aneurin Bevan University Health Board; Newport.

I am starting my Core Training in Psychiatry with Oxford Health NHS Trust under the Department of Psychiatry; University of Oxford; Thames Valley Deanery this August.

2. What country did you relocate from?


3. Would you share with us your personal mission as a doctor?

I would do my best to offer comprehensive treatment and consultation to our patients, their families, and the community. I would also like to apply my knowledge to the development and delivery of more effective, evidence-based treatments.

4. At what point in your career did you decide you wanted to relocate to the UK? What were your motivations for wanting to do so?

I decided to relocate to the UK six months after my Internship in India.

I decided to relocate when I got feedback that the Psychiatry Training in the U.K is far more disciplined than how it is in my home country healthcare system is.

The Relocation Process

5. What pathway did you choose to obtain GMC Registration?

PLAB Examinations.

6. How was your experience of securing an NHS post?

I did a clinical attachment in Psychiatry with the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust for a period of 2 months directly after my PLAB part 2 examinations. This increased my chances of receiving more interview invitations. I attended most of the interviews in person and received offers for the posts.

7. How long did it take you to relocate?

It took me twelve months to relocate to the UK.

I did not have any specific difficulties relocating to the UK as my job was on the shortage occupation list.

8. Is there anything you would have liked to have known before deciding to relocate? And now once you live in the UK?

I wish I had known about the sudden changes in weather (laugh. Ol)

Thoughts on the UK

9. For you, what are the key benefits of living in the UK?

The work culture in the U.K offers a good work-life balance. I am very much impressed by the advanced technologies that exists here. There is a lot to explore in the country side for short get-aways and there are opportunities to travel all around Europe easily whilst in the U.K

10. How do you feel you settled in your chosen location within the UK?

I reckon; Wales is a very good place to start the first NHS job. I live in Abergavenny; which is one of the best places to live in Wales. The people here are very friendly and there are lot of things going on. I love Wales for its serenity and its similarity to where I am from (Kerala; India -“Gods Own Country”)


11. How would you describe the support you received from your hospital after starting your new position?

I feel very well supported even as a Non-Trainee Doctor. I had a lot of time to work on my portfolio during my Trust Grade job. I also have weekly supervision sessions with my Consultant.

My Mentor Dr. Raja Adnan Ahmed and my Educational supervisor (RCPsych Tutor) Dr.Ranjini Rao was too kind; helping me to settle in and also secure a core training post .My Consultant Dr. Rahim Safeer also helped me have an understanding of Audits and the abilities to work in a multidisciplinary team. The work colleagues were also very friendly and professional.

12. What is your opinion on the NHS? Working within it and as a patient receiving care?

I would see NHS as a “Mother” to the patients receiving care and also for all its wonderful staff. Yes; the NHS has always been caring, kind, supportive, empathetic and straight forward.

13. How do you find working in the UK compared to your home country?

I feel that there are lot more opportunities to develop in one’s own career in the U.K compared to my home country (especially in Psychiatry). I have always loved working in my home country; but I could not really devote a lot of time for my personal development and lateral interests amidst the busy shifts.

Training within the NHS

14. How long did it take you to secure a training post?

It took me four months to obtain a training post. 

15. Do you have any advice for other IMGs who want to secure a training post?

There are opportunities to apply into Psychiatry Training without any U.K work experience if your Alternate Form of Foundation competencies are signed off from your home country.

I took time off to understand the system without applying directly. This has definitely given me an upper hand in securing a rotation of my personal choice and also good experience within Psychiatry. It is not necessary that the candidate have prior psychiatry experience before applying; but a strong interest and realistic insight into psychiatry and mental health is very essential.


16. Why did you choose to specialise in Psychiatry?

Mental Health I believe is important as physical health and definitely more thought stimulating. Psychiatry allows me to work on a bio-psycho-social model to do the best for my patients; which is very creative most of the times.  I am curious about every individual and I like interacting with patients as a whole; making them the centre of our conversation.

I understand there is a lot of social stigma around Psychiatry and mentally ill patients; which I completely disprove of and I am hoping to make a difference. There are also lot of untouched areas in Psychiatry; which improves the potential for research opportunities

17. Do you have any advice for junior doctors who want to pursue a career in Psychiatry?

If you are always curious, ready to explore what you don’t know and happy to see people beyond face value; Psychiatry is for you.

The Future

18. What are your hopes and plans for the future?

I am looking forward to complete my Core Training and then apply for my Speciality Training on Child and Adolescent Mental Health. I would also like to contribute towards Psychiatry on a Public Health perspective.

Thank you for taking the time to participate in this interview Dr Vallakalil, we wish you all the best with your new training post.

Relocation to the UK

If you are an international doctor who needs support securing an NHS post, email your CV to [email protected] and we can support you on your journey to the UK.

Are you a member of our Facebook Group IMG Advisor? We publish regular blog posts to aid your relocation, you will receive professional support and get the chance to meet other IMGs.


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