Thousands of doctors 'planning to leave NHS and move abroad for better pay'

12 April 2024, 08:40 | Updated: 12 April 2024, 09:25

Thousands of doctors are planning to leave NHS and move abroad for better pay
Thousands of doctors are planning to leave NHS and move abroad for better pay. Picture: Getty

By Kit Heren

Thousands of doctors are planning to quit the NHS and move to other countries to get better wages, according to a report.

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A General Medical Council (GMC) study of over 1,500 doctors found that 13% working in the NHS were very likely to quit in the next year.

Another 17% said they were fairly likely to leave the health service over the next 12 months.

The doctors' regulator said that this suggested that 96,000 doctors could leave the NHS over the next year, if the figures were extrapolated to the entire health service.

The GMC acknowledged that such a rate of departure from the NHS was unlikely. Some 4,000 doctors moved abroad last year. Many doctors who leave return to their home countries after a stint working in the UK.

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Some 79% of doctors who told the survey that they wanted to quit the health service said that higher pay would be a factor in leaving.

Three-quarters said that they would be looking for a better quality of life abroad, the Times reported.

Half of the doctors surveyed said they wanted to go to Australia. Canada, New Zealand and the UAE were the next most popular destinations for would-be migrants.

Australian hospitals have targeted NHS doctors with the allure of better pay, working conditions and quality of life.

Junior doctors striking
Junior doctors striking. Picture: Getty

A third of doctors surveyed said that the government's handling of the NHS and junior doctors' strikes were a major factor in wanting to leave.

Junior doctors have gone on strike ten times since last March over salaries, and have a mandate to keep striking until September.

Consultants recently voted to end industrial action by accepting a government pay deal that means some of them will get a 20% pay rise.

The GMC said that higher salaries "would improve the UK’s competitive position against the countries that doctors are most commonly moving to".

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Charlie Massey, chief executive of the GMC, said: “This is a stark reminder of the challenges we face in the UK, but it also presents valuable insight into how healthcare leaders, employers and workforce planners can target interventions to improve conditions.

“Though the number of doctors actually leaving to practise abroad in 2023 was comparably low, these findings are a warning to all should conditions fail to improve. It’s much easier to dissuade someone from leaving by acting upon concerns, than to persuade them to return.

“There are no easy fixes, but these findings highlight the urgency with which we must act. We must work together as a system to make informed changes so the talented professionals keeping our nation well feel supported to continue working in the UK.”

An NHS spokesman said: “While only a small sample of the UK’s practising doctors were asked about their intentions to leave as part of this research, the report itself recognises that doctors actually leaving to practise abroad last year was comparably low, and many of those who do leave do so because of pull factors like returning to their country of origin.

“There are more doctors working in the NHS than ever before but we know there is more to do to help retain our hardworking doctors.”

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