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Brain drain fears as GPs lured down under by promise of better pay and flexible working

By Gareth Iacobucci

Exclusive: Almost one in seven GP job vacancies is now for a post abroad, with the proportion of foreign jobs almost equal to the number of available UK partnerships, a Pulse investigation has shown.

An analysis of almost 350 job advertisements in Pulse's classified section has shown a surge in foreign vacancies being advertised in the past 12 months, with the proportion increasing from 11% to 15% in the past year.

Our analysis shows that salaried GP jobs continue to take up the lion's share of UK vacancies, as the shortage of GP partnerships shows no obvious sign of easing.

Of 197 partner, salaried and foreign vacancies analysed from the past three months, more than two thirds (67%) were for UK salaried jobs, compared to 71% from 150 vacancies in the same period last year.

The figures expose the growing opportunities available to GPs keen to leave the UK and will heighten fears that the lack of partnerships and continuing assaults on GPs' pay could lead to a brain drain.

The latest official figures from the NHS Information Centre this week show that GPs' net income continues to fall steadily, with increases in gross earnings being far outstripped by rising expenses.

Pulse's analysis found 80% of adverts for posts based in the UK were for salaried positions, a proportion unchanged since March 2009, when our previous investigation found GP recruitment has been completely turned on its head in five years.

Claire Ponsford, director at medical recruitment firm Wavelength International, said the company had seen an increasing number of applications from UK GPs looking to relocate to Australia over the past few years.

Ms Ponsord said: ‘GP working conditions in Australia are generally a great improvement. GPs can expect excellent nurse support, modern practices, flexible working hours and minimal on call demands. UK GPs also appreciate the Australian focus on clinical work rather than being bogged down with mountains of paperwork.'

‘GPs in Australia can expect to earn anything from $150,000. The average is around $200,000 (around £120,000) if they are able to see at least four patients an hour. Salaries up to $300,000 (£181,000) are possible if you can see at least six patients an hour and take on additional on call work or extra hospital-based work.

Dr Beth McCarron Nash, GPC negotiator and a GP in St Columb Major, Cornwall, described the situation as a ‘worrying trend', and said it was crucial to ensure that UK general practice was an attractive proposition to doctors.

She said: ‘Although partnerships are being offered in some areas, some practices aren't even bothering to advertise at all. It is a worrying trend if more are considering working abroad, not just due to the availability, but also to job satisfaction, income and feeling valued. We need to make sure we show what we have to offer.''

Dr Beth McCarron-Nash: GPs heading abroad 'a worrying trend' Dr Beth McCarron-Nash: GPs heading abroad 'a worrying trend' Foreign GP vacancies on the increase

Salaried – 71%
Partner – 18%
Foreign jobs – 11%

Salaried – 67%
Partner – 18%
Foreign jobs – 15%

Source: Pulse investigation

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