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How allied health professionals can work in the UK

Physiotherapist Emma Wilson at St Anton
Photo: Physiotherapist Emma Wilson at St Anton
Emma Wilson loves working in the United Kingdom.

The 28-year-old physiotherapist, who was born in Brisbane and raised in Canberra, is working as a locum through agency Medacs Healthcare (Australia) at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital in Norwich, located east of England in Norfolk.

Visit the HealthTimes Working Abroad page for international job opportunities

Working as a respiratory physiotherapist in the intensive care and high dependency units, Emma is also providing cover to the medical, surgical, cardiology and vascular wards for respiratory patients.

It’s Emma’s fifth locum role in the UK since she arrived more than a year ago. The variety of work has enabled her to create many new friendships and to see the sights of England and Europe.
“I’ve now done incredible trips to France, Italy, Austria, Turkey, Switzerland, Germany, Greece and Ireland and have so much more planned,” she says.

“The proximity to Europe is exhilarating and then there are all the amazing destinations within the UK itself.

“Having the opportunity to gain exposure to so much history, culture, religion, politics, arts, literature, food and the people in every place is exceptional.”

Australian and New Zealand allied health professionals are in demand in the United Kingdom.

A skills shortage throughout the allied health and medical professions has seen a rise in the number of physiotherapists, radiographers, dietitians, occupational therapists and podiatrists required in the UK.

Katie-Jayne Holloway, who works in UK recruitment compliance for Medacs Healthcare (Australia), has seen demand for locums in the UK reach an all-time high.

Ms Holloway says the high educational and professional standards in the Antipodean market ensures employees’ skills are highly sought after and easily transferable.

“Apart from OTs and physios where there is always a high demand, they also are literally crying out for all types of medical imaging technologists,” she says.

“Likewise biomedical scientists, dieticians, podiatrists and the list goes on.

“Most of these roles would be within the NHS, however some would be in private practice also.

“Demands for particular professions can change and fluctuate throughout the year but the demand is always there.”

Ms Holloway says allied health professionals should have a minimum of 12 months’ post-graduate experience in work before applying to work in the UK.

“Firstly, this is due to the fact that the UK only looks at overseas' professionals due to a shortage and therefore needs them to be experienced enough to hit the ground running with minimal training,” she explains.

“And secondly because there is quite a hefty fee to apply for the HCPC registration, and you wouldn’t want to spend the money if you cannot find work.”

Pursuing overseas work through an agency that recruits to the UK is a good way to ensure you meet the lengthy and costly compliance process.

A one-off non-refundable payment of £420 is required. Allied health professionals then need to meet the HCPC registration fee, which is advised when the application has been processed and approved for the two-year registration cycle.

HCPC registration takes around four to six months to process from the time the application is submitted.

“Get onto your registration work as soon as possible,” Emma advises.

“It is a complicated and time consuming process to put together and the processing time can be lengthy.

“The visa application was far simpler and easier to execute in my experience.”

Ms Holloway says allied health professionals need to eligible for either a working holiday visa (30-years-old or under) or an ancestry visa.

“The UK working holiday visa is a well beaten track but also an easily accessible way for Australians and New Zealanders to work overseas,” she says.

“Candidates get the opportunity to gain valuable international professional experience from eclectic sources throughout the UK whilst having the opportunity of satisfying their wanderlust on weekends travelling to various parts of Europe.

“If they are not eligible for either visa, in some circumstances we may be able to find an employer to sponsor them to work in the UK on a more permanent basis,” she says.

“We can place them in work from a few weeks to a few months or longer, to accommodate their travelling needs.”

Allied health professionals need to ensure they are fully compliant to work in the UK, and are required to provide evidence, such as serology reports or immunisation records for immunity to various diseases, a 100-point identification proof, and proof of qualification with copies of degree and professional registration in Australia.

Where allied health professionals secure work in the UK will depend on the skills shortages in specific areas at particular times.

Ms Holloway says Medacs Healthcare (Australia), which assists with the compliance process and there are no fees for its services, works with private and NHS facilities in all of the major cities as well as the regional areas of the UK.

But ultimately the decision of where to work is up to the locums, who also have to arrange their own accommodation.

Ms Holloway advises keeping an open mind when it comes to work locations.

“The UK consists of four different countries with different cities, cultures and adventures to be had,” she says.

“If a locum pigeonholes themself and is only willing to work in south-east London or its close surrounds, this will limit their opportunities - flexibility offers more opportunity.”

The advantages of working in the UK are endless, from the opportunity to gain more experience and new skills to the obvious potential for travel.

“They can work for a few weeks or a few months and then have a few weeks off to travel, before starting another locum position again,” Ms Holloway says.

Emma says the roles she has taken on since moving to the UK, including positions at Banbury in Oxfordshire, two stints at Manchester and another at Yorkshire, have taught her flexibility and adaptability while giving her an insight into the structure and workings of the NHS.

“I have developed new skills through both specific training and necessity, while it has also given me the opportunity to continue developing my clinical reasoning skills and to pass on skills and knowledge which I have gained from my work in Australia,” she says.

Emma says while there are ongoing challenges working abroad, from finding each new job to relocating, integrating into a new team, finding your feet in your role and making new friends, the rewards are endless.

“It is no small feat to move your entire life to the other side of the world and embark on such a grand scale adventure alone,” she says.

“That in itself is a lesson in courage, strength, hard work and resourcefulness.

“The opportunity to travel, the chance to explore, the friendships you develop and the memories you make are all well worth the effort though and in doing so you also have the opportunity to find out what you’re really made of and where your passions truly lie.

“The worth of such an experience is just beyond any value.”

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