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Medical students consider non-clinical careers after junior contract imposition

Exclusive Medical students are considering ditching the NHS and pursuing careers in non-clinical careers, including charities and finance and technology companies, after health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced he would impose a controversial new contract on junior doctors, Pulse has discovered. 

Disillusioned newly qualified and student doctors have approached university medical societies saying they are looking at working as medics in different countries – including the devolved nations – or considering leaving medicine and pursuing different careers entirely.

Figures from the GMC have also revealed that the number of doctors applying for certificates allowing them to work abroad rocketed following the announcement.

Mr Hunt said that the Government would impose a contract from August, which would see junior doctors having their premium for working on Saturdays reduced.

The BMA responded by announcing three more 48-hour strikes in March and April, during which junior doctors will only provide emergency care, and the launch of a judicial review to look at the legality of imposing the contract without carrying out an impact assessment.

It also said it expected students to look outside the English NHS as a result of the imposed contract.

And Pulse has been told by medical student bodies that they are receiving enquiries about a range of careers, including:

  • Working outside England, principally in Australia, Canada, Scotland, Wales, New Zealand or the US;
  • Entrepreneurial ventures, like developing apps and other technology;
  • Entering the financial sector;
  • Entering the charity sector;
  • Taking time out of medicine after graduating and returning at a later date.

A University of Nottingham medical society president Kim Stallard said: ‘Many students have mentioned to me that they either intend to work abroad (Australia or Canada) or work in Scotland or wales rather than in England.

’A low number have stated that they are looking into other careers, particularly in the financial sector and in the charitable sector.’

Barts and The London Student Association President Will Atkins said that the contracts dispute has given medical students ’serious concerns about the value the Government places in the continued existence of the service’. 

He added: A number of medical students have approached me about alternative careers, asking whether you could take time out of medicine after graduating before returning at a later date once things have settled down.

’Others have begun to develop entrepreneurial interests around things like app production and other technology.’

Mr Atkins said that a large number of students at Barts have become interested in practising outside the UK, particularly in Australia Canada and the US. 

A society for students interested in taking the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) needed to practice in the US has recently been set up at Barts, with its first event attracting 400 students.

Medical school students at universities in Ireland, Scotland and Wales will not be affected by the new contract, meaning many student doctors in the devolved nations considering careers in England are now looking to stay.

A University of Glasgow medical society representative said: ‘I was offered academic jobs in England and turned them down at least in part because I don’t want to work in a dangerous NHS. I feel that doctors are a lot more valued in Scotland. I expect we will see a surge in applications to Scotland, Ireland and Wales.’

The number of GPs considering working abroad rocketed on the day of the contract announcement.

The GMC said there were 298 applications for certificates of current professional status (CCPs) applications – which are necessary for UK-trained doctors to work abroad – on 11 February and 106 the following day, compared with 261 in in total from 1 February to 10 February.

Pulse last year reported that recruitment agencies looking to post UK doctors to overseas roles have quoted Jeremy Hunt’s 7-day working plan to attract GPs.

This comes as Pulse this month revealed that the number of medical graduates applying for general practice fell by 5% on last year to a record low, despite a national recruitment campaign run by Health Education England.

A BMA spokesperson said: ’It’s not surprising that junior doctors and medical students are considering their future in the NHS in light of what would be a completely unacceptable decision to impose an unfit and unfair contract.’

What’s the latest on the junior doctor contract row?


Junior Doctor Strike 2016

Junior Doctor Strike 2016

The BMA is launching a judicial review over the ‘embarrassing’ revelation that the Government failed to carry out an equality impact assessment before imposing a new contract on junior doctors in England.


It will also hold three more 48-hour strikes in March and April, during which junior doctors will only provide emergency care.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt this month announced that he was imposing a contract on junior doctors after talks broke down over the issue of evening and weekend pay, with the Government refusing to step back from its decision to remove ‘unsociable hours’ pay premiums from Saturdays and weekday evenings.


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