We were glad to read of Redbridge and Waltham Forest health authority's initiative to foster the careers of refugee doctors there ('Hidden talents', page 28, 17 September). The present situation is simply absurd.

Refugee doctors are working as supermarket assistants, with little hope of passing tough examinations while living in homeless persons' accommodation with no access to medical books.

As one refugee doctor told us: 'They are paying for my housing and supporting my family. That same amount would pay for me to work as a senior house officer - why can't I work for the money?'

It costs more than£200,000 to train a doctor from scratch;

facilitating recognition of competent refugee doctors will save money.

Some refugee doctors have specialist training or particularly valuable experience. One headed the 1989 Red Cross/Red Crescent famine relief operation in Somalia - quite a public health management experience. Many speak three or more languages well.

Three things need to be done.

All health authorities and trusts should look at this as a workforce recruitment planning issue. They should support clinical attachments, training initiatives and access to NHS medical libraries.

Medical schools are the only educational bodies with the resources to develop and provide suitable medical training. The United Examinations Board is likely to be abolished soon. All the bodies concerned with medical education should be thinking about a more effective route to development and recognition of refugee doctors. They should facilitate access for refugee doctors to their libraries.

the government must recognise that helping refugee doctors to re-enter the medical workforce is cost effective and enables Britain to meet its UN obligation to integrate refugees into employment appropriately.

Dr Sheila Cheeroth Clinical lecturer Department of general practice and primary care St Bartholomew's and the Royal London School of Medicine John Eversley Senior research fellow public policy research unit Queen Mary and Westfield College