Lida Amer is an endocrinology trainee in Liverpool. She came to the UK as a refugee from Yemen and in May 2012 she met a midwife who told her about Reache NorthWest, a programme which supports refugee and asylum-seeking healthcare professionals. When Dr Amer’s son was six months old, she joined Reache and started studying for the English language exam. Passing that would entitle her to go on and take the PLAB (Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board) exams which lead to GMC registration. Dr Amer describes taking the exams:
"You helped us a lot. We didn't have any furniture because we were in temporary housing and you supported us. My children were so pleased with the desk and we are still using the furniture."
"I was stuck with the writing. Reading was OK but writing was very problematic for me. It took almost two and a half years to get through the English language exam. For the PLAB exams I managed to pass them both first time."
Dr Amer was awarded grants for her exam fees and a PLAB preparation course by BMA Charities. She also had help with buying furniture for her children’s rooms when she moved house:
"You helped us a lot. We didn't have any furniture because we were in temporary housing and you supported us. My children were so pleased with the desk and we are still using the furniture.
The BMA Charities exam and course grants facilitated me joining the NHS earlier. Without the grants there would have been a delay in my registration. The course and the exams were quite a lot of money so I think my registration might have been delayed by maybe one and a half years to two years. Neither me nor my husband was working at that time and it would have been very difficult to save the money for the fees in a short time.
There are many, many people who graduate from Reache who are now doctors in the NHS. I have colleagues in every part of the country from York to London to Blackburn. I know lots of people who have benefitted from BMA Charities supporting them with fees and when they needed a grant to move house. It's really made a big difference to them. As refugees, we need to work and we want to work but it's not easy for us to get registration - you have exams, you have children, you’ve just moved, you need a house, you need furniture – there are a lot of things going on. We are fully occupied by things including immigration issues, awaiting a reply from the Home Office, waiting for this, waiting for that. So receiving a grant for fees for us takes away part of the headache so you can concentrate on your studies. This facilitates you getting registration earlier and contributing to the community, working sooner and also improving your life and other people’s lives as well.
Help from BMA Charities is not only for the individual person. The impact is on that person’s family first of all. My children are having a better life than before, having good schooling. Then, if we think widely, the person contributes to the community themselves rather than having to receive money from the government. They will be paying taxes and so this is more than helping only one person. I'm paying tax and also supporting my family, so the grants not only help me.
Being part of the NHS has been really big for me, especially during Covid. We are in the front line, going to work and supporting the people suffering from Covid. I believe the NHS provides massive support for the health of the people in this country and everyone in the NHS is really working hard at this time."