Physiotherapists who train abroad can struggle to secure quality work in the UK, which can lead to health inequities, Olubunmi Olasanoye explains
Sometime ago, I was added to the bank band 5 physiotherapist pool in a NHS facility while in private practice, but I was unable to take up shifts/jobs as I was told I had no NHS experience - and when I offered to start off as a band 4, I received no response.
More recently, I was also unable to get an hourly paid lecturing role because my visa had a different Standard Occupational Classification code and I received no response when I offered to do unpaid work.
These are two experiences, amongst many, which show how being an overseas trained physiotherapist can determine the quality of work you are able to get. Quality of work, like education, unemployment, income, housing and access to health and care services, is one of the many factors that shapes our health; hence, when there are variations in these factors amongst different groups and populations, it inevitably leads to health inequalities.
Furthermore, a negative impact from one factor can lead to the reinforcement of another – like the impact of unemployment on income, leading to poverty.
This disadvantage of more overseas trained professionals having a low socio-economic status compared to some colleagues means we have a higher risk of poor health.
Health inequalities are the differences in the distribution of health resources between population groups, arising from social conditions in which people are born, grow, live and work.
As many overseas trained professionals fall into groups where more than one of these social conditions may have an impact, there is already a disadvantage. This disadvantage of overseas trained professionals having a low socio-economic status compared to some colleagues means we have a higher risk of poor health.
By making conscious efforts to check our biases and narrow the gap of inequalities, especially with overseas recruits filling staff shortages, overseas trained physiotherapists could have better lived experiences and more chances at better health.
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