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Dr Mark McCartney: ‘It was a big step, but life as a GP in Australia is much better’

Twelve months ago I took the decision to apply for medical registration in Australia. It was big step to leave, with two sons at university and other family too, not to mention the friends, patients, partners and staff at my practice in Cornwall.

I had worked in Australia previously so I knew a little bit about the system, which appeared to offer more opportunity than the treadmill of NHS general practice, which was coming under continued assault by politicians and the press, particularly the Daily Mail. There had also been constant chatter in social media from GPs who are unhappy with their lot in the NHS, talking about employment in Canada, New Zealand or Australia.

I had already left the NHS pension scheme and the denigration by our leaders and managers was beginning to wear me down. My previous commitment to the NHS was beginning to wane.

It was not an easy decision, but there did not seem to be any issues with the paperwork and when I was offered a nice job after an early morning telephone interview I quickly accepted it. From there it was a short period of time before the journey to the Sunshine Coast in Queensland.

General practice here is a lot different and it is a new professional challenge. 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 a ‘honeymoon’ period with my new situation. I intend to return occasionally to the UK to work to try to maintain my registration, but it seems that this might be a difficult for me, as there are issues with staying on a performers list.

I have met a few other recent refugees from the NHS and all appear to be settling into professional life in Australia. We have escaped from CCGs, CQC, QOF, LATs, OOH, falling income, pension cuts and adverse taxation changes. No doubt some of these things will catch up with us here in Australia, but we might be better equipped to deal with them.

Some of us will return for the comfort of family and friends, but in the meantime we can enjoy the challenge and adventure, not to mention the outdoor living and the fantastic climate.

I am not surprised to hear that many more GPs are thinking of making the move abroad. For any that are hesitating, I can understand that, especially if there are family ties and commitments. It is a big decision, but sooner is often better and here in Australia at least, you will be made very welcome.

Dr Mark McCartney is a GP who emigrated from Cornwall to Australia last year