February 2023
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Has your doctor or dentist bought, or bribed their way to, their qualifications?

Someone I know is married to a woman from a developing country. She recently told me how proud she was that her brother, who still lived in that country, had passed his exams to go on a fast-track career stream in the police. “He had to work very hard”, she explained, “as he didn’t have the money to bribe the examiner”.

This brings up the issue that in many African, Asian and East European countries, where corruption is a way of life, people often bribe their way to or buy their qualifications rather than working for them. In India this year, four pilots have been caught with fake certificates and the police are investigating India’s 4,000 or so pilots to see how many others are not actually qualified to fly. It might be slightly worrying to find out that the only flying your pilot had done was on the simulator game on his X-Box.

Similarly in these countries, qualifying to become a doctor or dentist often depends more on how much cash is handed over, rather than knowledge or aptitude to do the job. At least one Nigerian “doctor” has been caught working in the NHS with qualifications bought in Moscow. Nobody knows how many other fake doctors and dentists are happily working in Britain. I know a Bulgarian dentist that botched one simple filling I had. I successfully sued her employer, but she’s still employed here, no doubt botching her way through many other NHS patients’ teeth.

So, when you get treated by a foreign doctor or dentist from the world’s most corrupt countries, if they got their qualification in Britain, you can probably be confident they know what they’re doing. But if they’ve done their education at Kampala University Hospital or the Mogadishu Institute for Dental Excellence or the Lagos Medical School, you could be forgiven for wondering whether they qualified through hard work or through a pile of money in a brown envelope.

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