Figures showing one-third of doctors considering leaving UK practice ‘unsurprising’, says DAUK GP lead

DAUK’s GP lead Lizzie Toberty has told national radio listeners she is not surprised by new research that shows almost one in three doctors could be considering leaving UK practice.

A survey of doctors by the General Medical Council asked how likely they were to move abroad to practise medicine in the next 12 months.

More than 13 per cent of those practising in the UK answered ‘very likely’. A further 17 per cent said they were ‘fairly likely’.

Speaking on Times Radio, Dr Toberty said: “I’m not surprised by the figures and I don’t think anyone working in the NHS will be surprised to hear them.

“We heard a couple of weeks ago that patient satisfaction was at an all-time low and this is representing staff satisfaction, and staff satisfaction I would say is at an all-time low.

“The question we need to ask ourselves is if I was sick, or a member of my close family is sick and unwell, am I happy for them to wait 10 hours in A&E, or three months for cancer treatment, or six weeks for a GP appointment?

“If the answer is no, I’d like there to be a doctor available, clear-thinking and ready to treat me should I need it then I think we have to take these figures really seriously.”

Doctors’ Association UK GP lead Dr Lizzie Toberty

Dr Toberty said the high training standards meant that UK doctors were being targeted by other countries.

“In this country we have really excellent training for undergraduate and postgraduate,” she said.

International market

“Our doctors have an excellent knowledge base and communication skills.

“The rest of the world knows this and wants us.

“We need to recognise this is an international market. Places like Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the Middle East, the Republic of Ireland realise this and are very much pushing it.

“It’s not just people moving abroad, it’s people retiring early, it’s people moving into other sectors, it’s people saying I’ve had enough.

“We all know morale is low but very little is being done to tackle that.”

Dr Toberty said one way of improving morale was for employers to produce a plan for the future travel of the NHS.

“I think it’s about hope,” she said. “We have had years of austerity and the overall message to the workforce in the NHS is things aren’t going to get much better.

“I understand we can’t turn the situation around overnight, but we can provide a plan and that hope that there are going be good careers coming here and there are going to be ways of maintaining a work-life balance.

“Part of that, of course, is about remuneration and about pay, but it’s about so much more in terms of working conditions.

“It’s about the way we train people, moving them around the country, moving people away from their partners, their children.

“Giving people parking tickets when they park in the wrong place on call.

“These are small things that chip away at people’s psychological wellbeing and make people feel undervalued.”

Student loan forgiveness

Dr Toberty added that debt forgiveness, which could see some or all of NHS workers’ student fees written, might also be a way to improve morale.

“We’ve got young people aged 23, 24, graduating with more than £100,000 worth of debt,” she said.

“Even when they start paying off their student loan, the interest on the debt is rising.

“It’s really depressing to look at your debt and think you’ve got no chance of paying it off and paying it down.

“Giving people realistic prospects of paying off their student loans would be a good way forward.”

Read the GMC survey in full.