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One in three medical students plan to leave NHS, finds survey

One in three medical students plan to leave NHS, finds survey

More than one in three medical students plan to leave the NHS within two years of graduating, according to a new study. 

Researchers surveyed just under 10,500 UK medical students between January and March this year, and concluded that the ‘alarming’ results highlight the need to focus on ‘doctor retention’.

According to the survey, after graduation or after each of the two foundation years, around 32% of students planned to emigrate to practise medicine, while just under 3% planned to leave the profession altogether. 

Of those with the intention to emigrate, around 43% said they were not planning to return, and Australia ranked as the most popular destination, followed by New Zealand, the US, and Canada. 

Males and privately educated students were ‘significantly’ more likely to want to emigrate than females and state-educated students respectively.

However, state-educated students were more likely to want to leave medicine than their privately educated peers. 

Consulting – followed by technology, financial services, and law – ranked as the most popular industry destination for those who want to leave the profession. 

The study revealed that for those planning to leave the NHS, the working conditions of doctors, work-life balance and pay at a junior level were listed by the largest number of students as important reasons. 

While the study found that the majority of students (83.98%) intended to complete both years of their foundation training, under half planned to pursue specialty training after that, and ‘an alarming proportion’ of all students surveyed ‘intend to leave the profession or emigrate’.

The researchers also asked students about levels of satisfaction, and found that only 17% were satisfied or very satisfied with the prospect of working in the NHS.

They said their findings support the ‘notion that working conditions, location and earnings are significant factors influencing junior doctors’ decisions to enter or remain in training’ and ‘underscore the importance of addressing these factors to create a supportive and appealing environment for junior doctors, ultimately promoting better retention rates within the NHS’.

On the Government’s commitments to increase medical school places, the researchers concluded that this ‘may not result in proportionate increases in doctors wishing to remain in the NHS’. 

They said: ‘Without a corresponding increase in clinical placement capacity, an increase in medical student places may lead to a decline in the standard of medical education.’ 

‘Any attempts to reverse the NHS workforce challenge may benefit from prioritising doctor retention,’ the authors added. 

Pulse’s analysis of training in July found that the NHS would need to double GP training capacity in five years, and treble it by 2033 in order to meet the commitments in the long-term workforce plan.

Responding to the study’s findings, BMA representative body chair Dr Latifa Patel said it ‘reveals the very real and worrying trend of doctors’ leaving the NHS.

She said: ‘It is disheartening that medical students already recognise the extent to which our profession has been devalued through constant pay erosion and declining working conditions, and have made up their minds, as a result, that the NHS is not the right place for them to work. 

‘They are investing seven years of their lives, starting out with the intent to be a doctor in our NHS, only to have that enthusiasm and commitment crushed out of them.’

Dr Patel called on the Government to ‘address pay restoration, career progression and working conditions’ in order to ‘turn the tide on the growing workforce crisis’.

The survey, compiled by researchers at the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London, captured around 25.5% of the medical student population, and the average respondent age was 22. 



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A Non 12 September, 2023 6:46 pm

Im a little confused. These guys arent even Drs yet and here they are ‘planning to leave’ …urrr why the fe<€ are they at Uni studying medicine then? To emigrate? Well yeah some of them might, I did for a year or so, but realistically most of them will come back and urrr sorry but you’ll need to become Drs first ..and if you’re training in the UK that’ll involve working in the NHS fellas..sorry. Maybe what this article is actually telling us is that whining that ‘this is crap I am going to leave’ is maybe now part of the medical curriculum? I mean like come on guys, stop filling your head with depressing articles in Pulse and the Daily Fail maybe, do the job for a wee while then let the journalists know what you’re plans are. Mean time enough already with the ‘medical students plan to leave’ garbage. Really

Ashley Krotosky 14 September, 2023 7:33 pm

It indicates that expanding training programs (which all political parties are committed to), may be less effective in expanding the workforce, than paying off portions of student debt for each WTE year of NHS work.

To fill a bath you must first put in the plug. The Aussies and co are salivating at the prospect of having the next generation of their doctors trained for free in the UK.