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Why I'm glad to be back in the UK

Dr Mark McCartney explains what drew him back from his post in Australia

In 2013 I resigned from my GP partnership of 23 years and headed to Australia with my family for a new job at the Golden Beach Medical Centre in Queensland. I was fed up with the way the NHS was heading and was looking for a new challenge. I had a four-year visa, and the plan was to see if it could be extended until the end of my career.

My wife and I weren’t sure at first if we had made the right decision for our family and whether we would cope with the demands of living and working in a place where we had no friends or relatives. Luckily, moving to Australia turned out to be a great experience professionally and I really enjoyed learning new ways of doing general practice. Working abroad is something that I would thoroughly recommend.

Returning was hard

The one aspect of practice in Australia that really impressed me was the access and availability of radiological investigations, which are not hospital based. What a different world it is where you can request a CT or MRI and see the patient the next day with the result.

Family reasons brought me back to the UK but making the decision to return was really hard. We had invested so much energy in our new lives and there was a lot to give up - friendships, the outdoor living and the work. In the time since I left, things have not been getting any better for NHS GPs. There is a real recruitment crisis now, and the proposed returners’ scheme will not be enough to attract ex-NHS GPs. The authorities should recognise the experience and skills gained as a GP working abroad and not place additional requirements and restrictions on those who wish to return.

But there are things I missed about the NHS. The continuity of care it offers patients is very much undervalued and the presence of a lifetime NHS record is a great asset. True, I am still trying to understand the changes to the QOF and the new care planning schemes. But UK general practice remains a good career.

We had an amazing experience in Australia and I have no regrets about moving abroad. Nevertheless, I’m now committed to my work in Cornwall and honestly, it’s great to be back.

Everyone in my family now feels closer to one another.

Dr Mark McCartney is a GP in Cornwall

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Readers' comments (28)

  • Vinci Ho

    Welcome back, mate and it is important to respect your decision to join this battlefield again. Not easy as you said but the flag is still flying...,,

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  • you just need to watch as you will now become ( maybe already have ) the 'poster boy' for the government / RCGP to say - LOOK we can get them back from the Aussies !!!
    your case will be misrepresented - it seems you had to come back but it will be portrayed that it is because the government / RCGP attracted you back as the NHS is such a great place to work. This is not true. I hope your optimism continues in a few years time.

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  • His case shows that there is no crisis in GP land.It's all hyperbole and hype.

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  • "Family reasons brought me back to the UK .." he says, he's just rationalising his decision into a positive. Give him time!

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  • All general practice in UK should be privatised.

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  • Let's hold off all the negative replies here
    This guy made a personal decision and fair play to him.
    I wish him all the best for the future.
    (re Vincent Ho - I can't say I get all your Game of thrones/star wars references!!- but I think your comment about joining the battlefield again was v apt !!)

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  • Some people who leave will come back....it is good to hear their perspective on return - and the real value of continuity that we take a little for granted...but it's under threat. Everybody wants it...patients really like it...we need to protect it hey
    Thank you for the article

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  • Given it was personal circumstances its understandable. Just wondered which was better? Maybe not a straightforward one to answer.

    The Australians also have an expression, "Boomerang Pomes". Apologies for using this expression but my understanding is that it refers to Brits who went to Australia, came back to Blighty and then returned to Australia for good...

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  • Ex UK Partner, London, been in Oz 2 years. Will not be coming back. UK GP land needs to improve 10 fold before I consider it. Life is good in Oz!

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  • Family is almost always the reason why we come back, and who we ultimately toil and strive for.

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