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Mr Hunt, why have you let so many NHS GPs burn out, retire or emigrate?

Nothing is keeping GPs in the UK, writes Dr Gaurav Tewary, and as part of the latest wave of leavers I wonder why the DH has failed to retain us

After 13 years in the NHS, having reached the pinnacle of my career I’m emigrating to Australia. In fact, I am writing from the stopover lounge of an airport in Singapore.

And it’s not just me: NHS GPs are leaving in droves. I know of five GPs, all fairly young (under 45), leaving for Australia from Coventry this month. Almost all of the psychiatry consultants have emigrated to Canada from the local Trust and many GPs are on the verge of retiring. The GP in Birmingham who did the medical for my Visa is retiring from the NHS aged 49 to go into private practice. The loss of expertise from the NHS is stupendous and unprecedented.

The NHS has over a million employees and counts amongst its members some of the most highly-regarded professionals ranging from paramedics to nurses to GPs. GPs regularly come top of the polls as a trustworthy profession.

Yet, not a single day goes by when the NHS is not denigrated by the press in an attack which often seems to be orchestrated by your office. Staff morale is at an all-time low. There is a looming workforce crisis in district nursing, A&E doctors, social workers, and GPs.  These issues are routinely glossed over and anybody fighting for better working conditions is painted as a money-grabbing no-gooder. 

Fair pay for hard work

The NHS, like our armed forces, is staffed by people you could never pay enough: people working 12-14 hours a day in highly stressful situations such as A&E departments, often without adequate breaks and to the detriment of their own health. This has become the norm across the NHS.

And these people want some respect. They want to work in an environment that’s supportive and appreciative. They want an end to constant top-down restructuring and clinically irrelevant targets. They don’t want to go to work every day feeling like they are getting ready to do battle and they want the health minister to tell the public the truth about how much pressure the NHS is under.  But the Department of Health has repeatedly failed these people by cutting services, and leaving frontline staff to face the criticism of the patients and the press. Why?  I came to this country in 2001. I trained as a doctor in India and worked in the Middle East before coming to the UK. I was neither an asylum seeker nor an economic migrant but an intellectual migrant.

The NHS was a breath of fresh air. My first job interview consisted of a panel comprising an Irish consultant, an Egyptian and a Brit with a British Asian medical staffing representative. During my first six-month post I was not only encouraged to develop myself further but given leave and paid to go on courses which I could only dream of affording in India or the Middle East. 

This nurturing of talent and knowledge continued and within three years of coming here, I was associate tutor of the Royal College of Physicians whilst doing a medical rotation and until recently I was a GP appraiser, an elected member of the local CCG board, and a partner.

Over the last 13 years I’ve lived, worked and travelled all over the UK and have visited most places from John O’ Groats to Land’s End. I have used no public funds and have broken no laws, apart from a couple of traffic offences.

I was attracted to the NHS because I believe everyone should have access to health care that is free at point of care and more over is the same high standard for everyone regardless of whether they can pay. 

The NHS does this better than anyone else in the world. No fee-based system, whether paid for by patient or insurance, can match it. In the UK I have been able to practise evidence-based medicine and never had to think about whether my patient could pay. 

There is an old saying: do a job you love and you never have to work a day for the rest of your life. GPs do this job because they love it. The changes ushered by the Department of Health since Lansley’s white paper are crushing GPs –people like me who seemingly ‘have it all’.

In the end, I’d like to ask Jeremy Hunt three questions: why is he letting all these million-pound assets like us to leave the NHS? Can Mr Hunt reassure UK citizens that the NHS is in a fit state to tackle the looming problems which our ageing population faces? And, despite all the cutbacks, are the needs of the populace safeguarded?

I’m an ardent admirer and supporter of the NHS and, for the sake of the millions of people rely on it, as well as those who work in it, I hope that you can answer both those questions with ‘yes’.

Dr Gaurav Tewary is a GP from Coventry who has just moved to Australia.

Readers' comments (49)

  • Beautifully written. Sadly the same could well be said for the pharmacy profession too, as well most staffing groups in the NHS, I suspect.

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  • Recently saw a Geriatrician who had given her soul to the NHS. Was being pressured to retire as she kept on challenging the senior managers in her trust.

    Ultimately couldn't help feeling desperate that characters who have kept the NHS going are being discarded so easily.

    Whatever the rights and wrongs of sacrificing family and personal life for the NHS there have been these characters in all areas of medicine who have kept the NHS afloat. I do wonder if the fact that these clinicians are being discarded is one of the reasons things are feeling so difficult now.

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  • Good luck Gaurav...Well written and poignantly put. Agree with all you've said and would like to add... Agent Hunt has taken away the dignity of working for the NHS and being valued for it. It may be a huge upheavel for me to consider the Oz now but any more pushing around by the DoH and the flow will be entirely downstream !!!!

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  • Australia may not have enough vacancies for us all . We need our CCG leaders many who are retired GPs or redundant PCT staff to support care and develop a fraternity with the sole aim of service not just lining pockets . We can't work in silos but as I have said for 40 years collaborate innovate and serve together. I so often hear and read people slat GPs

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  • I think India is a good option but MCINTYRE are a pain or I would be there. . I will try Canada

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  • Good luck
    A classmate was there and earned double for the same work but more interesting a few years back
    I really will follow your blog and will get there one day

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  • why.because hunt is a dangerous demagogic deluded fool

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  • Been in Canada a year now and my work load is up to me and I can practice medicine without restriction or politics (I can order investigations ive never heard of). The money is great (150 000 punds per year for 32ish hours per week) and related to what I do so unfortunately the clinic is quet now so im earning nothing but when busy I charge for the time I spend with patients. The Rocky mountains and general adventure were the reason I left. I was fairly happy locumming in UK but only lasted 6 months as a partner. No one told me how much of my wages would end up as pension and the 730 starts paperwork etc. There are no repeat prescriptions(took me an hour a day in UK with all the notes for med reviews etc attached) here they just pick them up from pharmacy then return for their review when no more repeats. Why haven't we thought of that in the UK!!

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  • Gaurav Tewary

    Here is my next instalment detailing my experience in Australia so far. I echo the sentiments expressed by the last poster from Canada. Been working here for 2.5 months and its totally stress free.

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