GPs have been spotted trying to escape the country by climbing into parked lorries on the M20 leading into Dover.
Operation Stack, where heavy goods vehicles are parked on the motorway when there are Channel crossing delays, has come into effect at the same time as the Government announced plans for patients to have access to their own GPs for seven days a week.
The exact numbers of GPs that have left by this route are not known. The UK Border Agency are working with several medical organisations to try to catch GPs before they leave, though it is understood that some have already got Certificates of Good Standing.
A spokesman for UKBA told us: ‘It seems that all the flights to Australia, New Zealand and Canada are booked up solid for months. Desperate GPs are fleeing the conflicts here in this country to try to get a better life anywhere else – even France.
‘We suspect that GP smugglers are advertising on social media and helping the escapees through Europe until they can find a flight to any other English-speaking country that will have them. If they were really that desperate, they would learn French and settle in the first safe country they came to.’
We spoke to one salaried GP from Manchester who had fashioned a sling from blood pressure cuffs in order to hang underneath the chassis of an 18-wheel HGV. He said: ‘I think if I had any hope then I would stay here in the UK with my wife, children and elderly parents.
‘But really, there is nothing to keep me here. I will go and make a better life somewhere else, where I am appreciated and then I will bring my family over.’
With that he ducked under the massive bulk of the vehicle.
Lorry drivers report that GPs have been offering bribes to be let into their trucks.
‘One fella offered to check my blood pressure for me if I let him hide in the back,’ confirmed Jean-Claude, a driver returning to Belgium.
Government ministers have been asked to comment on the crisis. They released the following statement regards the crisis: ‘It was never the intention that the “new deal” for general practice would have such an effect on the morale of GPs.
‘It does however, show how self-centred and miserable this profession is; to abandon this country when more GPs than ever are needed.
‘We intend to carry out a top-level marketing strategy to replace them as soon as possible and we will continue to liaise with the UK Border Agency to ensure that vehicles are triple-checked for GP stowaways before crossing the channel.’
As the transport crisis originating in France eases, only time will tell if the exodus of GPs continues.
In the meantime, Kent County Council is trying to decide how to deal with a squatter camp for doctors that has sprung up on the outskirts of Dover.
Dr Samir Dawlatly is a former secretary of the RCGP’s adolescent health group and a GP in Birmingham.