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UK GPs happier abroad, new study finds

Nine out of ten doctors who emigrate to New Zealand to work decide not to come back, a new study has found.

Research by a team from Oxford University on 282 UK-trained doctors working in New Zealand suggests they stay in their adopted country because of better job and leisure time satisfaction compared with their NHS contemporaries remaining in the UK - with leisure time satisfaction scores markedly higher.

Respondents´mean job satisfaction score was 8.1 on a scale of one to 10 compared with 7.1 for contemporaries in the UK. The equivalent scores for leisure time satisfaction were 7.8 compared to 5.7 for NHS doctors.

The research showed only 30% of doctors who emigrated had planned to stay in New Zealand permanently but 89% now intended to stay.

Typical comments included: ‘Better lifestyle – outdoor sports and activities… better weather. More relaxed. Less uptight. Good place to bring up children.'

Some respondents had left the UK because they were disillusioned with the NHS or because they did not have a job or a place on a training programme. This was significantly more evident for more recently qualified doctors, who also commented on the importance of reducing barriers to re-entry and of the UK accepting Australasian qualifications, the researchers said.

Lead author Trevor Lambert, a senior researcher in the Medical Careers Research Group at Oxford said: ‘While the appeal of their overseas lifestyle dissuades many emigrants from returning home, easing re-entry of UK-trained doctors to UK medicine might be a factor worth consideration.'