Over 500 English GPs began the regulatory process of leaving the country to practice elsewhere in 2013, GMC data has revealed.
Newly released five-year data shows a sharp year-on-year increase in the numbers preparing to emigrate, with 529 GPs requesting the required Certificate of Good Standing paperwork from the GMC – which is needed before practising abroad – compared with just 266 in 2009.
The news comes after repeated warnings of increasing numbers of GPs training in Britain but then choosing to leave to work in locations such as Australia, where GPs work shorter hours for higher pay.
The figures, obtained by the Labour Party, reveal that there has been a steady increase in the numbers of GPs requesting the certificates, with 329 issued in 2010, 370 in 2011 and 466 in 2012.
Although a request for a certificate does not necessarily mean the GP is applying to work abroad, it is considered the most accurate way of determining migration from the UK.
A recent Pulse investigation revealed that in total some 5,000 doctors a year request the GCS from the GMC, with Australia, New Zealand and Canada popular destinations for British GPs. The Australian Medical Council has awarded certificates of Advanced Standing to over 5,500 UK doctors since 2006, 40% of whom have gone on to complete the 12-month supervised performance assessments needed for general registration. It granted 945 certificates in 2012 and 729 in 2013.
New Zealand is also an increasingly popular destination for UK-trained doctors, with 469 doctors added to the New Zealand medical register in 2013 and 511 in 2012, according to the Medical Council of New Zealand. Specialist medical recruitment consultants have told Pulse that other sought-after destinations include Canada, the USA and the UAE.
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: ‘Cuts to the GP budget are placing intolerable pressure on services and forcing many GPs to move abroad or retire early in despair. People are already struggling to get GP appointments and things are set to get even worse.
‘Unlike this Government, Labour has a plan to turn primary care around. We will invest more money to recruit 8,000 more GPs, increase diagnostic testing capacity in GP surgeries and give patient a guarantee of appointments within 48 hours.’
RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker said: ‘The mass exodus of GPs – driven by soaring demand and plummeting resources – is a clear and present danger to patient safety.
‘On the one hand, GPs are leaving the profession due to intense pressure and a lack of support, and on the other, not enough medical students are opting for general practice because they see the pressure we are under.
‘GPs enter general practice to provide good quality and safe care for our patients but this is becoming harder and harder to do as a result of falling funding and diminishing resources – it is easy to understand why working in other countries is becoming so appealing to GPs in the UK.’
Number of Certificates of Good Standing issued by GMC to English GPs over the past five years:
Source: Data released by the GMC to the Labour Party