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Overseas doctors fear backlash following terror arrests

Revelation that terror suspects are doctors causes shock and dismay

Jo Carlowe

Tuesday, 03 July 2007

International doctors working in the UK have reacted with dismay following the revelation that many of the detained terror suspects are doctors.

Some fear a racist backlash and warn that the situation may make it harder for overseas doctors to obtain training posts and work in the UK.

Speaking to OnMedica, GP Dr Prasad Rao, chair of the British International Doctors' Association (BIDA) said the situation would make his members feel more vulnerable.

"It is very disturbing. I am shocked to hear that any doctor could be connected to this type of activity. As doctors we respect all religions. We have all taken the same Hippocratic Oath with the aim to heal not to maim or kill."

Dr Rao, a practising GP in Stoke-on-Trent said he hoped the incidents would not prompt a racist backlash.

"The British public have been treated by doctors of all religions and backgrounds and we have been integrated here for a long time, but there may always be some members of the public who have their doubts.

"We are more vulnerable than the indigenous population. The public may have suspicions and so we have to be 'whiter than white'."

Dr Rao said he hoped the revelations would not make it more difficult for overseas doctors to get work in the UK.

"There may be more rigorous criteria. If a doctor wants to come to this country in the future it may be more difficult."

Dr Ramesh Mehta, consultant paediatrician at Bedford Hospital and President of the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) urged his members 'not to panic'.

"I hope the British public have common sense to know that overseas doctors have done extremely well for the NHS over the last 50 years and you can't change that over night. These bad apples could have been from any profession - they just happened to be doctors. It doesn't mean that all overseas doctors should be blamed," he told OnMedica.

Iraqi doctor Bilal Abdullah, arrested at the scene of the Glasgow airport attack, graduated in Baghdad in 2004 and was working in a supervised NHS role at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley.

Two further men were arrested at hospital residences, although the police have not confirmed whether either were doctors.

Dr Mohammed Asha, 26, of Newcastle-under-Lyme, who was arrested on the M6 motorway, qualified as a doctor in Jordan and working at North Staffordshire Hospital in Stoke-on-Trent.

A 26-year-old doctor from Bangalore in India who works at Halton Hospital in Cheshire was arrested in Liverpool, and Australian police have detained a 27-year old registrar named by the Australian media as Dr Mohammed Haneef, who had previously worked in Liverpool.

In addition, Australian police are interviewing a second medic.



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