Archive for February, 2020

Polish firm takes lead in filling UK’s GP shortfall


Where is the future of the UK’s general practitioners (GPs) being made? You might be surprised to find out that a part of the answer lies just south of the Polish capital, Warsaw, in the somewhat sleepy suburb of Piaseczno.

A 20-minute jaunt from Warsaw, Piaseczno has experienced rapid growth recently. In one of the new condos that have sprung up in the town – the result of a property boom that has lasted since the early 2010s – there’s a spacious, yet cosy, office.

It’s lunch break at the Paragona Campus, where doctors from several European countries and a multitude of cultural backgrounds are training to become GPs in the UK. Paragona is the Swedish-Polish specialist recruitment company that is on a contract with the National Health Service (NHS) to reduce the shortage of GPs that many UK regions experience.

The company’s task is to find and train doctors in line with the NHS standards of patient care. Upon completing an intensive 12-week course at the campus in Piaseczno, doctors move to the UK to work under supervision and eventually gain official recognition as GPs employed by the NHS.

Trainees pour out of the rooms and fill the central space of the office that features a two table tennis tables, some couches around a coffee table, and a small kitchen space with a coffee machine that immediately attracts a small queue.

It’s people of unique backgrounds here. Lana was born in Jordan, studied medicine in Ukraine, and has now lived in Greece for the past 30 years. Her daughter lives in the UK, where she is studying to become a doctor, like her mother.

“I thought: why not try something new? I think the NHS offers good conditions for GPs. And my daughter is already there in the UK so that helped me make up my mind about moving,” says Lana.

Lana tried to become a GP in the UK before but she says it was impossible to reconcile her Greek experience with studying for the UK’s GP induction scheme.

“What Paragona has offered me is that I can focus on improving my English and learn about working in the UK. The NHS people are here to help us, too,” Lana says.

Numan joins the conversation. He’s originally from Palestine but for the past 21 years has been living in the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela, where he also got his Spanish GP degree. He has also worked as an emergency doctor.

“I’ve been through other courses before but this is the best. Everything is taken care of. We study not just English but also what the rules are if you work as a GP in the UK, how to refer patients to secondary care and so on,” says Numan.

The crucial part of the course in Piaseczno is learning how to interact with patients. To that end, the future GPs will go through a series of so-called simulations in which British actors – who have just flown in from the UK with their coordinator, Michele Gutteridge, act out various types of people GPs are going to meet.

“So we’ve got somebody who’s very chatty, who’s got some ideas about what’s going on. Somebody else who’s very forthright and direct and very organised. And then somebody else who’s going to be quite emotional and upset,” says Gutteridge, whose actual job title is Simulation Workshop Developer.

Acting out patients’ personalities comes on top of background work to make them as close to real patients as possible.

“Patients’ stories are prepared specifically for Paragona. We were funded to create the scenarios and we had a clinical team to help us. They made sure that all the clinical details are correct and the stories are all clinically viable,” says Gutteridge.

Lana and Numan are finishing their course at Paragona Campus in February, after which they fly back home to get ready for the next step – the actual move to the UK.

Once in the UK, they will have an opportunity to put into practice what they have been learning in Piaseczno.

But the campus never goes quiet. As groups leave, new ones arrive all the time. “We’re having groups coming to us until the end of June,” says Monika Chruściel, Paragona’s Deputy Director of Studies. And she is only talking about scheduled dates while work is underway to complete a detailed schedule for the second half of the year. It will be equally as busy, with doctors arriving not just to receive training to work in the UK, but also in Sweden, Norway, as well as France.

By Wojciech Kość

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