Why are so many doctors thinking of leaving the UK to practise in another country? Our recent Medscape UK Salary and Satisfaction Report suggests 29% are considering working abroad. It’s an even higher percentage for younger doctors with 45% under the age of 45 thinking of leaving the NHS and working overseas.
Some of those surveyed may have decided to return to their country of origin. However, the research also suggests a degree of frustration with the NHS among doctors. Reasons cited included red tape, workload, burnout, reorganisation, poor management, and tax on pensions.
Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden is an intensive care doctor and president of the Doctors’ Association UK. She says she’s not surprised that so many doctors are thinking about leaving the NHS.
Making Exit Plans
“Many of my colleagues are actively making exit plans, whether that be retiring early, looking for jobs in other countries, or indeed leaving medicine altogether.
“Whilst most of us will have suffered moral injury and moral distress to varying extents during the pandemic, when you really listen to people about why they want to leave this is actually rarely mentioned. Instead, most people talk about deteriorating work conditions, and how this has made them feel,” says Dr Batt-Rawden.
“I think the need to feel valued as a doctor is what attracts so many to move abroad to practise medicine. Many doctors I have trained with over the years have left for Australia or New Zealand. It has been a real shame to lose so many talented and dedicated doctors, but they all seem so much happier there,” says Dr Batt-Rawden.
“There seems to be much more of a focus on work/life balance in the Antipodes. The hours are limited, there is a heightened awareness of burnout and fatigue. On-call accommodation is plentiful and it is often described as a much higher standard than what we have here (if we have it at all!). Trainees are given months of paid study leave for exams, the cost of which is also covered. Many doctors describe having thousands of pounds of a study budget a year which they are actively encouraged to use to broaden their horizons. The pay is much better too. All the doctors I know who have left for Australia for just one year have not returned, and it’s easy to understand why,” she adds.
The Future Post Pandemic
Dr Batt-Rawden believes the pandemic has unmasked many deep-seated problems or legacy issues.
“It’s become abundantly clear that there was very little practical support for frontline healthcare workers on the ground. These are simple things that are hugely damaging for morale – not being able to park at work, having nowhere to buy hot food overnight, not having a staff room because it has been turned into an office,” explains Dr Batt-Rawden.
She goes on to say: “I believe that there now is a desire to change these things, to reverse the slow erosion in working conditions that has happened so insidiously over many years. With many of my colleagues considering leaving the NHS, or indeed hanging up their stethoscopes for good, I can only hope that this isn’t too little, too late.”
The full article can be read here.