Last month, health minister John Denham launched a government initiative to help qualified refugee doctors work for the NHS.

There are an estimated 5002,000 medically qualified refugee doctors living in the UK who want to contribute to, rather than depend on, the society that has given them refuge.

Refugee doctors face many hurdles on the long path to reestablish their medical careers.

They must sit difficult exams designed to test language, medical knowledge and clinical skills. Many achieve this despite being forced to live in poverty and deal with the psychological issues that come with settling in a foreign land. In London, informal evening study groups meet in NHS facilities and rely on the goodwill of friendly postgraduate administrators.

Refugee doctors also benefit greatly from clinical attachments in NHS hospitals or primary care settings. But some trusts have been charging clinical attachment fees of up to£1,000.

Refugee doctors on benefits of£35 per week cannot afford such fees. The Department of Health recommends that clinical attachments for refugee doctors should be free.

Trusts might more profitably look on helping refugee doctors - and other healthcare professionals who are refugees - not as a fundraising opportunity but rather as a recruitment exercise, or even a gesture of goodwill.

Many groups and individuals have come together to help this previously neglected group of doctors. At its annual conference, the British Medical Association agreed to waive subscription costs for refugee doctors in financial hardship, and is in the process of setting up a mentoring scheme.

With all our help, there is the potential to change individual hardship into healing for many.

Kate Adams BMA international committee