By Gareth Iacobucci
Exclusive: The Government's plans for GP commissioning, threats to the NHS pension and successive falls in partners' take-home pay have led to a sharp spike in the number of GPs leaving the UK to work overseas, according to recruitment agencies.
The medical recruitment company Austmedics told Pulse it has seen a rise of up to 40% in enquiries about jobs in Australia over the past year - with the number of GPs actually signing contracts up by a fifth.
It cited the NHS reforms and successive GP pay freezes as key factors in the increase, with salaried GPs in Australia able to earn anything from £80,000 to £190,000 – and pay an effective tax rate of just 15%.
The new figures come after a Pulse investigation last year revealed a surge in the number of foreign vacancies being advertised, with almost one in seven job listings now for a job abroad.
Guy Hazel, managing director of Austmedics, reported a 'very significant rise' in the number of GP partners leaving the UK. He is currently recruiting on behalf of 78 Australian practices, and has 36 GPs based in the UK who are in the process of signing contracts.
'Usually we have salaried GPs and very few partners. However this year we have seen a large number of partners resigning and moving to Australia,' he said.
'GPs are considering going because of the relentless pace of change – the combination of commissioning and a general feeling that GPs are unappreciated.'
'Salaries are frozen for GPs, which means in real terms they are getting 5% poorer each year,' he added. 'Pension costs will raise substantially over the next two years, further eroding earnings.'
A spokesperson for another recruitment company, MediRecruit Doctor, said recruitment of UK GPs was a 'growing' area: ‘There is a particular demand for UK-trained GPs because their qualifications and skills are considered comparable by the governing college here in Australia.'
One UK GP preparing to move to Australia in the next couple of months, who asked not to be named, told Pulse many of her friends and colleagues were planning to follow.
'I don't want to lose my UK registration, and I will do everything to keep it, but at the same time I will remain in Australia to be honest,' she said. ‘I don't like the way the NHS is changing.'
'The professional indemnity insurance is up, the workload is up, the hours are up. At the end of the day our quality of life is really going downhill. The last six to eight months have been really difficult.'
Dr Beth McCarron-Nash, GPC negotiator, said her best friend emigrated to Australia from Cornwall two years ago, because of 'limited job opportunities'.
'I'm not surprised that some GPs are deciding to take the opportunity to take their skills to Australia and New Zealand, and make the most of seeing the world at the same time,' Dr McCarron-Nash said.
'What I hope is that these doctors decide to come back and aren't lost to the NHS.'
Dr Beth McCarron-Nash,