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Swansea Bay consultant playing vital role in helping the NHS recruit international medics

A doctor smiling outside the entrance to Morriston Hospital in Swansea

A Swansea Bay consultant is going above and beyond the call of duty after playing a key role in the recruitment of more than 50 international medical staff for the NHS.

Consultant Stroke Physician Dr Tal Anjum has been opening doors for doctors from all over the world since 2017 after deciding it was time to give something back by organising an informal clinical attachments programme.

Tal’s programme involves being a point of contact for staff from abroad who are keen to gain an insight into working for the NHS.

Doctors who are interested in making the move to the UK have been getting in touch with Tal about his attachment scheme after hearing from other medics who have visited Swansea.

The ‘word of mouth’ arrangement has proved a huge success, with Tal, who himself arrived in the UK from Pakistan in 2005, mentoring new arrivals and ultimately helping them find and then apply for jobs within the NHS.

He set up the informal clinical attachments programme after deciding he wanted to offer support for other overseas doctors interested in joining the NHS, and make it as stress-free as possible for them.

Tal said: “My outlook is this; I appreciate it is stressful to come to another country looking for a new role but it shouldn’t be when the system needs you.

“I have a folder in my email where I keep clinical attachment correspondence and the first email I received was in May 2017.

“I’ve supported 51 candidates to date. The majority of those people have gone on to work for the NHS in Wales with many working for Swansea Bay. Some have also gone to work in England, where maybe they have family and a support network.

“Some are from India and Pakistan. I’ve got two graduates from Bulgaria, a dozen from the Middle East.

“It’s all quite informal. I first came to Swansea in 2005 from Pakistan and I managed to get my foot in the door at Morriston Hospital.

“At that time, I was on a rotation to hospitals in other areas but I kept coming back to Swansea.

“I found you could get things done here, it wasn’t a faceless organisation and I quickly appreciated how much the area has to offer and that it is a great place to raise a family.

“Doors were opened for me and that’s why it’s important that I give something back.”

Tal, pictured below (second left) with colleagues at Morriston Hospital, qualified as a consultant in 2014 and feels extremely fortunate to have been given the opportunities that have come his way over the years.

He added: “I never thought I would get as far as I have in my career. When I first came here from Pakistan there was no streamlined training scheme, it was a case of moving from place to place but I always wanted to come back here.

Medical staff posing for a picture

“I know what it is like to come to a new country on a new continent and how stressful that is.

“If I can take some of the stress out of that experience for someone, then that is beneficial to everyone. We should be trying to make the transition, coming to a new country, as easy as possible and not hard.

“There’s a lot of word of mouth involved. I will get a CV sent to me, I’ll forward it on to our HR department and liaise with them. They’ll carry out the necessary background checks and once the candidate is ready to come to Swansea, I’ll meet up with them.

“This is not a formal programme but it is a case of mentoring candidates.

“The thing to stress to them is that they’re already a doctor; they’ve already got skills and experience.

“It’s a case of helping them adapt to a different country, how things work here. It’s about learning the different systems.

“Typically, I will spend three weeks with them. I will sit down with them for an hour or two of induction and they will join me on ward rounds, shadow junior doctors and learn about patient care in our setting.

“I’ll also help with job applications, CVs, writing references; many of the kind of things that should help them with finding a role and getting settled in this country. I’ve never had an incident, we’ve never had a problem arising from the attachment programme that we’ve had to mop up. The people who have come here are very capable and are looking to adapt to a new working environment.”

Tal’s reputation as a talent finder for the health board now proceeds him, with colleagues in other departments knowing he may have a great candidate for a particular role on his files.  

Tal added: “Over time I’ve developed a network, again in an informal way, with colleagues in other departments like respiratory, gastroenterology, A&E, neurology and others.

“If my colleagues are looking to potentially fill a vacancy, they know to come to me as I may well be aware of someone who could help them.

“Equally, if a candidate has an interest in a particular field, I have the network to see if they can be placed in that area.

“It benefits everyone. There is the formal Medical Training Initiative that offers an entry route for interested doctors to train and develop here before returning home. But what I’m doing is totally informal and I’m doing it because I understand we have a need for medical staff but that the route to get here can be hard.

“It’s also very satisfying to know that you have helped. I suppose it would be great if one day one of the candidates I have introduced goes on to assist with clinical attachments themselves and also gives something back.

“But it’s not about a legacy on my part, it’s just about doing something I’m in a position to do to help with workforce and to help people with making a new start here.

“And I’m only able to do this because of the support of colleagues and especially our HR department, who I would like to thank for all their help and expertise.”

Swansea Bay Director of Workforce and Organisational Development, Debbie Eyitayo, is highly appreciative of the work of Dr Anjum and other medical consultants, who are helping to match staff from abroad with clinical attachment opportunities.

She said: “Offering clinical attachments is an important route for us to promote medical career opportunities within the NHS and having the support of Dr Anjum has been outstanding.

“The fact he started as a clinical attachment and is now a Consultant and Clinical Lead means he is a credible role model.

“So far in 2023, the health board has supported 89 clinical attachments and a majority of these have been sponsored by our medical consultants, including Dr Anjum.”

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