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A faulty production line

Dr Mark McCartney: 'It was a big step, but life as a GP in Australia is much better'

Moving across the world to work as a GP has given me a new challenge and allowed me to escape the constant denigration of our profession, explains Dr Mark McCartney

Twelve months ago I took the decision to apply for medical registration in Australia. It was big step to leave, with two sons at university and other family too, not to mention the friends, patients, partners and staff at my practice in Cornwall.

I had worked in Australia previously so I knew a little bit about the system, which appeared to offer more opportunity than the treadmill of NHS general practice, which was coming under continued assault by politicians and the press, particularly the Daily Mail. There had also been constant chatter in social media from GPs who are unhappy with their lot in the NHS, talking about employment in Canada, New Zealand or Australia.

I had already left the NHS pension scheme and the denigration by our leaders and managers was beginning to wear me down. My previous commitment to the NHS was beginning to wane.

It was not an easy decision, but there did not seem to be any issues with the paperwork and when I was offered a nice job after an early morning telephone interview I quickly accepted it. From there it was a short period of time before the journey to the Sunshine Coast in Queensland.

General practice here is a lot different and it is a new professional challenge. One thing I don’t miss is QOF, and the pop up computer messages exhorting me to carry out various irrelevant tasks in the consultation. I now realise what a negative effect they were having on me and the way I was consulting with patients.

It is not all perfect here, but it does seem better, although I am probably still in a ‘honeymoon’ period with my new situation. I intend to return occasionally to the UK to work to try to maintain my registration, but it seems that this might be a difficult for me, as there are issues with staying on a performers list.

I have met a few other recent refugees from the NHS and all appear to be settling into professional life in Australia. We have escaped from CCGs, CQC, QOF, LATs, OOH, falling income, pension cuts and adverse taxation changes. No doubt some of these things will catch up with us here in Australia, but we might be better equipped to deal with them.

Some of us will return for the comfort of family and friends, but in the meantime we can enjoy the challenge and adventure, not to mention the outdoor living and the fantastic climate.

I am not surprised to hear that many more GPs are thinking of making the move abroad. For any that are hesitating, I can understand that, especially if there are family ties and commitments. It is a big decision, but sooner is often better and here in Australia at least, you will be made very welcome.

Dr Mark McCartney is a GP who emigrated from Cornwall to Australia last year

Readers' comments (19)

  • I've had the pleasure of meeting Dr McCartney in person, and you'd struggle to find a more decent individual - a real gentleman. I'm glad he's getting on well and wish him all the best in Oz.

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  • Enjoy your new life I too worked in Queensland and loved it coming back was fine I love general practice but the daily mail and the Tories treat us like scum time to go back I think

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  • Made the move to Australia 3 years ago. Bye-bye QOF, 10 minute appointments, and people abusing the NHS. Hello 15 minute appointments, hands-on general practice (suturing wounds, plastering, skin excisions), and more respect from patients. Less patients per day = less burnout. Doubling my income also helped.

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  • A lovely man and a caring, thoughtful doctor.

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  • Sounds great, time to leave the NHS and head over to Oz. No more Daily mail woo hoo!

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  • It is a shame . We have to leave due to political issues. I must say all my friends are so delighted in Australia and they are trying to convince me as well.
    It sound very attractive to me.
    Let see when will I move there.
    I am hoping government will try to sort things out now rather than when the UK has no GP left.

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  • Why did I come back thinking it would be okay in the UK after 15 years in WA? Beats me. General Practice in the UK is a miserable and demoralising occupation. I have deskilled, am unable to get on with the business of looking after my patients without some busybody telling me I am not doing 'appropriate' tests or am not qualified, or have to wait months before things get done, or have to speak to some junior doctor with no experience.

    In Australia I can earn in three months of hard work the same as a GP earns in UK. So that's what I do.

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  • There are a number of issues for those GPs who are considering working in Australia.
    - DWS (District of Workforce Shortage) Requirement, which lasts 10 years, which requires the GP to work in DWS areas, most rural and on the out skirts of major cities.
    - Revalidation and Performers list. While you can have a one year sabbatical,and remain on the performers list, you would need to return to the UK in the second year to do 40 sessions and your appraisal.
    - Ideally you should be under 45 years, to secure Permanent Residency within 8 months of arrival. Over 45, it is possible but less straightforward.
    - You must have both your CCT and MRCGP.
    - The family needs to be up for the change.The biggest issue Austmedics' find with GPs who return is missing friends and family.
    - There is still strong demand for GPs however working in the major cities of Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne is becoming difficult.

    As Dr McCartney and others have said there are major benefits to be derived from a move to Australia. Austmedics have place a large number of GPs, and the vast majority have loved it. A number have returned, all have loved it, but the pull of family and friends is very strong. Clearly its a big move that takes about 6 months to plan.

    The NHS has a lot to learn from the Australian system, I know its heretical to say, however having a system that "charges" patients changes the whole pt/doctor relationship.

    So if you want to feel valued and rewarded speak to austmedics.

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  • my brother is a GP and has just moved out there and loves it - more time per patient, more respect, less demanding rude patients, better pay, great lifestyle, and as mentioned before he does more things like minor surgery. I'm starting gp training in august - have always wanted to be a GP since starting medicine, but I'm so disheartened by what I see hear and experience of the NHS. so when my training is finished I may well move to Oz as well. there's going to be a big problem for GPs in the UK

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  • Agree with most of what you say Guy but most PCTs and now CCGs have said legally all we need to do is 1 session a year in UK to be on Performer's List and annual appraisals.

    Have people heard the same about this- yet another example of the red tape in UK- such a thing should be universal shouldn't it?

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