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Dr. Vasil Kiryazov - The Island Doctor

Dr. Vasil Kiryazov - The Island Doctor

Dr. Vasil Kiryazov studied medicine at the Medical University of Varna, Bulgaria where he graduated in 2001. He started his career as a paramedic in A&E and later worked at St. Marina University Hospital in Varna. Last autumn he moved to the UK.

He works for the NHS as a Specialty Doctor in Anaesthetics at St. Mary’s Hospital on the Isle Of Wight and kindly took some time out to answer our questions about why he moved and what it’s like to work in the UK.

1. Why did you decide to move to the UK when you were already working as a fully trained doctor in Varna, Bulgaria?

That was by no means an easy decision. It took about a year to take shape and few more months to execute.

My primary motivation was a better salary (sad but true), but there was actually more than that behind my decision. I wanted broader perspectives for my children (all three of them), and a self-esteem boost since I like a challenge. And, after all, I hadn’t burnt any bridges. I could always return to my previous life. It’s just one more option that I have now.

2. Was there any particular reason you chose to go to Newport on the Isle of Wight?

Not really, but I consider myself lucky with the way things have happened. Last summer, after a few months of looking for a suitable position to no avail, I was ready to take any offer. During that time I had three applications and I was about to attend three interviews in a row, the last one being on the Isle of Wight. Then, out of nowhere, I was introduced by my line manager to some Bulgarian doctors who had lived and worked on the Island and had heard that a Bulgarian doctor had applied for a vacant position. To cut a long story short, their recommendation got me the job.

3. What do you find the most interesting about the Island and the people there?

The Island itself is a very beautiful place – calm and relaxing, and very scenic. The population is ageing, the British middle classes come here after retirement but they’re friendly.

Initially I expected life in a small town on an island to be boring, but actually I adapted to it pretty well. Probably the fact that I travel to Bulgaria almost every month for a few days helps. Funnily enough I have been here before for the annual Isle of Wight Festival in June. The Rolling Stones were headlining in 2007, so I couldn’t miss it. Now that I’ve mentioned the festival, this year Pearl Jam took me right back to my teenage years. Awesome performance!

4. What is your work system and what is the typical workload in a given month?

We work 14 sessions per week (one session takes 4 hours during the day time or 3 hours at night, hence a 24 hour shift accounts for 7 sessions). There’s a five week rolling rota. Three weeks with six 24-hour resident on-call (or resident ITU shifts, two shifts per week) followed by two weeks of theatre work.

I think St. Mary’s on the Isle of Wight is one of the few hospitals in the UK where 24-hours shifts are feasible. That says a lot about the workload.

There are no SHO’s in the anaesthetic department, so staff grades take most of the work.

There are six theatres in total and anything more complex than a hemicolectomy (in surgical terms) is transferred to the mainland (mostly Southampton).

There’s no paediatric surgery, no neurosurgery, no vascular or thoracic surgery. The maternity department deals with around 1200 deliveries annually.

On the other hand orthopaedics is in bloom. An 80-year-old lady already with one knee and one hip replacement, coming for a second total hip replacement is a common occurrence.

5. What are the major differences between the work of an Anaesthesiologist in Bulgaria and the UK?

That’s certainly difficult to answer. While in pure medical terms the work is almost identical, it’s a completely different system in the way it’s organised. In brief, in Bulgaria we have dictatorship-like management vs. well defined rules and mutual decision making processes in the UK. In Bulgaria I was lucky to work with a very open minded and supportive department head, but quite often it’s a “my way or the highway” kind of attitude you get from a typical Bulgarian lead clinician.

With regard to everyday activities, I can’t help mentioning the abundance of single use disposable items for almost every anaesthetic and surgical procedure (including disposable laryngoscopes and bronchoscopes introduced in the UK recently) opposed to the scarcity of such items in Bulgaria.

6. What is the pay for a middle grade Anaesthesiologist in the United Kingdom and how does it compare to salaries in Bulgaria?

The staff grade pay rate is no secret at all. It’s roughly between L36,000 and L68,000 per year. The exact salary within that range for a newcomer will depend on how many years spent on working at the same level (i.e. staff grade) the candidate can prove.

In my case I proved three years (although later I found out it could have been more) which led to a salary L44,000. But that’s for 10 sessions a week. Since we work 14 sessions per week that makes it around L62,000 with the option for a few well-paid extra duties.

My gross income for 2010 in Bulgaria was roughly L10,000.

Recently, I heard from colleagues of mine that things have improved slightly, but this is still far from what they deserve.


Vasil Kiryazov

MD from Varna, Bulgaria
He graduated in 2001 from Medical University of Varna as Medical Doctor His professional career started in 2000 as paramedic in A&E. Between 2002 and 2011 I’ve been working in St. Marina University Hospital in Varna as an anaesthetist and teacher. Last autumn He moved to the UK and started my NHS employment as a Specialty Doctor in Anaesthetics in St. Mary’s Hospital on the Isle Of Wight.