Letter to The Deputy Prime Minister Rt Hon Nick Clegg

Answer from Department of Health

To the attention of The Deputy Prime Minister Rt Hon Nick Clegg

Subject: ITSEB (Association of Turkish Speaking Health Professionals in the UK)

Dear Deputy Prime Minister,

We are a newly founded organisation with a particular interest in helping Turkish and Turkish speaking people (both patients and healthcare professionals) who are presently living in the UK. Our goals are straightforward and diverse: to help Turkish and Turkish speaking patients in the UK to ensure they recognize and have better access to the healthcare services and utilize it efficiently; to provide support between Turkish and Turkish speaking healthcare professionals; and to organise and assist in exchange programs between healthcare professionals and students in Turkey and the UK.

When a Turkish (speaking) patient needs healthcare, it is often challenging for the patient to get the help they need, as they have to cross several barriers, such as language and cultural barrier. With the latest cuts within the NHS, these communities are threatened to lose an efficient and equal service provision assisted by interpreters or health advocates. Most GP surgeries stopped paying for translators, which had a huge impact on access to services for this population. Even when the patients speak English well, they may still prefer to express themselves in their own cultural specific ways, which often leads to misunderstanding or even antagonism. As a result, they are not always taken seriously and they feel excluded, which leads to isolation. Even though the number of Turkish speaking population is an estimated 300-500.000, the research shows that due to the lack of clarity in the position of white/non-white division, they are one of the most under-researched ethnic groups (Enneli, Modood and Bradley, 2005). ITSEB wishes to address these issues by providing assistance and guidance by connecting patient groups with health services through cooperation with voluntary individuals (e.g. translators) and existing organisations (e.g. for advocacy). In addition, Turkish-speaking doctors may also contribute, by giving second opinion, psychoeducation and providing advice to both patients and GP’s. ITSEB can publish information leaflets about common conditions for Turkish speaking patients, booklets about Turkish culture for healthcare professionals in the UK to help them understand the needs of the Turkish speaking community, and make directories available to both patients and GP consortiums to direct people to the nearest Turkish-speaking healthcare professional in the UK. As you know, in today’s NHS, patients are said to have a choice and as a result they can request a certain specialist, even if the doctor concerned is not based in their closest NHS hospital.
Nick Cleg with Ali Ozbek
Another point we wish to highlight is the valuable time wasted by Turkish healthcare professionals when they come to the UK. Often it is unclear for them, which steps to take for their Turkish degrees to be recognized and they do not know where to apply for it. Next to that, there is a double standard in diploma recognition. For instance, while a doctor graduated from a Turkish university with an EU passport can have full GMC registration straight away, the other doctor graduated from the same university, but with a Turkish passport, will not automatically receive GMC registration. In addition, there are many examples of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals working outside healthcare, spending a lot of time in finding ways to get their degrees to be recognized. ITSEB aims to give guidance and support for these newcomers, so that they will be able to start practicing in their profession as soon as possible, preventing them from losing their skills. We believe that there can be an agreement between the UK and Turkey as part of the solution, which will enable healthcare professionals to practice in their specialty in either country. This is for the benefit of both the UK and Turkey and is in line with Turkey’s EU aspirations. It also prevents the waste of human resources and expertise, as well as providing a platform to exchange students and researchers, based on the universality of science.

Furthermore, ITSEB aims to build on the existing connection between the Turkish and British government, which had “never been stronger” as Prime Minister David Cameron said during a recent press conference. We also requested the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during a personal meeting with him on 31 March 2011, to support us in achieving these goals. We would be honoured to have the opportunity to meet you in person, to provide our suggestions of how we would like to address these issues in practical terms with workable strategies. We should be grateful if you could appoint a special representative who will enable us in achieving these goals, together with the British government.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Müge Herrewegh-Trak
Psychiatrist, MRCPsych
ITSEB Secretary

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