'I feel guilty about leaving but it's becoming harder to do the job'
Dr Paul O’Grady, a salaried GP, explains why he is leaving a Newcastle practice to work in sunny Sydney
I qualified in 2010 and have been working as a salaried GP in and around Newcastle ever since. My current practice is in a fairly deprived urban area near the west of Newcastle.
I started to think about emigrating about a year ago. My partner works in banking and is at the point where he needs to move in order to further his career. Obviously, as a trained GP, I can work anywhere. I’d already lived in Australia for a year in 2005 during my training, so I know a bit about the system. And I didn’t exactly feel like now would be a bad time to leave the NHS.
The RCGP put a statement recently, saying they were going to make it easier for British GPs practicing overseas to come back. In my case, that actually encouraged me to go. I do feel that they’ve almost shot themselves in the foot there. I’m not due revalidation until 2018, and I’m going to retain my registration and try to stay on the performers’ list so I can come back.
I’m not planning to go to Australia long-term. I’ve got a four-year visa and a two-year contract, and I suspect I’ll stay there somewhere between the two. I don’t see myself staying there for the rest of my career, but I don’t know how things are going to go. If we settle, then it’s a possibility.
I’ve got mixed feelings about moving. I feel a certain amount of guilt about contributing to this worsening GP workforce crisis - I’ve got first-hand experience of how hard it is to recruit and retain GPs. I’ve been trained by the NHS, and there’s a part of me that feels I should be giving that work back.
But general practice needs to come to a breaking point where things bounce back a little more in favour of the GPs and the patients. At the moment it feels like the patients are getting a raw deal. It’s becoming harder to do the job in the way you want to do it - which is with continuity, spending actual time with your patients.
In terms of the work in Australia, I’ve been told that I’ll be given 15 minute consultations, with the flexibility to adapt them as I see fit. I’ve got a contract for 40 hours a week, five days a week. I’ll be developing my own list of patients, and I’ll be able to have continuity of care with the people I look after. It’s not like here, where you can end up seeing lots of emergency appointments - perhaps 30 in one morning - and finish the day feeling that you haven’t done your job properly.
My new practice is in Blacktown, about 40 minutes drive from central Sydney. I know there’s already another British GP working there already who has been there since May. It’s not too much of a surprise - I get the sense that more people here are looking for jobs overseas. A friend who graduated alongside me in 2010 is also moving out to Melbourne in October. She’s a full-time salaried GP, and thinks Australia can offer a better life for her and her family.
There are just so many tasks that you have to do as a salaried GP, let alone a partner, and I think lots of people are thinking of moving abroad. The agency that’s helping me move certainly has no shortage of applicants.