Exclusive The number of doctors applying to the GMC for certificates that enable them to work abroad has increased by 12% in the last five years, figures obtained by Pulse have revealed, leading to fears that GP talent is being ‘lost’ because of workload pressures.
The figures reveal that Certificates of Good Standing (CGS) – a document that doctors must present if they want to register with an overseas regulatory body or employer – were issued to 4,726 doctors in 2012, compared with 4,222 in 2008.
Over the same period the number of doctors on the GMC register during the same period has risen by only 2%.
The number of CGSs issued is the closest measure available of the number of doctors who are considering a move abroad, as official figures are not kept for the number of doctors moving overseas.
Overseas employment agencies said the figures supported their experience that that there had been a ‘significant increase’ in GPs interested in moving abroad over the past few years, with GPs looking at alternative destinations to the more popular Australia.
Pulse has also obtained figures from the Medical Council of New Zealand that show a 49% increase in registrations from the UK and Ireland between 2007/08 and 2011/12, with 624 doctors registered with the council in 2011/12, compared with 420 in 2007/08.
The Australian Medical Council recorded steady numbers of doctors from the UK applying to be registered in Australia, with 974 in 2008 and 939 in 2011.
GP leaders said it was ‘worrying’ that doctors feel their career is best served away from the NHS and said pressure on pay and pensions would only make the situation worse.
Mr Paul Brooks, managing director of overseas doctors recruitment agency EU Health Staff, said he has seen more UK GPs looking for work overseas in the past two years.
He said: ‘We’ve seen a significant increase in the number of UK GPs looking to work overseas in the past couple of years. Australia is the favoured country, but recently, doctors have also been looking to move to Canada and New Zealand.’
Mr Brooks added that all of these countries ‘offer something different for UK GPs despairing of the UK or NHS’ and give doctors the chance to escape ‘NHS bureaucracy and unwelcome changes to the way things are being run’.
These figures come after Pulse yesterday revealed that one in seven GPs had had to make redundancies following the contract changes in April, with many partners also reducing their drawings by more than 20%.
GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said some of the departing doctors would be GPs as they were feeling ‘undervalued and unsupported’.
He said: ‘It’s worrying that doctors feel their career can be best served leaving the NHS. Pressure on pay, attack on pensions have a negative impact on the morale of doctors.
‘It’s a big waste in the resources that have gone into training the doctors, and they can’t support patients in the UK. Their skills and talent will be lost. We need to urgently address morale so that young doctors feel that NHS best serves their career aspirations.’
Dr Mark McCartney, who left his practice in Cornwall for Queensland, Australia, last year, said part of his reason for leaving was that GPs felt under ‘continued assault’ from politicians and the press.
Dr McCartney added: ‘One thing I don’t miss is QOF, and the pop up computer messages exhorting me to carry out various irrelevant tasks in the consultation. I now realise what a negative effect they were having on me and the way I was consulting with patients.
‘It is not all perfect here but it does seem better, although I am probably still in the “honeymoon” period.’
Number of doctors issued with Certificates of Good Standing (CGS)
A spokesperson for the GMC stressed that a request for a CGS did not mean that doctors had eventually left the country, and some may have multiple registrations at the same time.
He added: ‘We do not record data on the reasons why doctors request a CGS so would not be able to confirm the numbers of doctors requesting a CGS solely due to leaving UK practice.’
GMC chief executive Mr Niall Dickson said that healthcare is ‘increasingly global’ and that more than a third of doctors on the UK register qualified outside the UK.
He said: ‘The total number of doctors registered has increased steadily over recent years with over 20,000 more doctors on the register now than there were in 2009. During that time requests for Certificates of Good Standing have increased significantly too.’