Government plans for seven-day access to GP surgeries are being capitalised on by overseas recruiters urging doctors to switch to a “four-day working week” in New Zealand.
An email sent to GPs by the recruitment firm Head Medical asks doctors whether they are “living to work or working to live” and cites “recent proposals by the UK Health Minister [sic] of a ‘more human, seven day care service’” as a factor in New Zealand becoming “an increasingly popular relocation favourite”.
The Department of Health insists their plans, for everyone in England to have access to a GP from 8am till 8pm, seven days a week, will not mean any individual doctor being forced to work excessive hours, but family doctors have warned the plans will require a significant increase in the workforce.
New Zealand and Australia have long been popular among doctors seeking a career change thanks to a perception of better work-life balance, salaries and career opportunities.
Head Medical, a specialist overseas recruiter based in Edinburgh, which has been working in the field for seven years, says in its email that most practices in New Zealand allow their GPs to work a 35 hour week over four days, adding that doctors get 15 minutes consultation time with patients. A typical consultation in the UK lasts for 10 minutes.
The email was only sent to GPs who had already expressed an interest in New Zealand and was obtained by the GP magazine, Pulse.
Jim Godsal, business development director at Head Medical, told The Independent that doctors wanted to work abroad for a range of reasons and did not make the decision “on a whim”, adding that concerns around seven-day working were “just a new reason to move”.
The company has helped 518 doctors settle overseas in the past seven years, in countries including Australia and New Zealand and more recently the Gulf states, where heavy investment in healthcare is leading to an increase in demand, Mr Godsal said.
However, he added that overall interest in moving overseas had remained “steady” since the company began work, adding that he did not anticipate a big increase in applications linked to Mr Hunt’s plans.
A similar email, sent by the same firm to consultant radiologists last month, cited Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s controversial speech on seven-day working in hospitals, which has led to widespread anger in the profession.
“Given the Health Secretary’s speech today regarding a new weekend working contract for Consultants [sic], it may actually be time to start thinking about a new life in Australia where the work/life balance not only genuinely exists as a way of life, but is also promoted by the employer as a unique selling point,” the email said.
There are no official figures on how many doctors move abroad. However, applications to the General Medical Council (GMC) for certificates of current professional status (CCPS), which doctors must receive before applying to work overseas, give some indication. Last year, 4,925 were issued CCPS, and 2,680 had received one in 2015 as of June.
Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, chair of the British Medical Association’s trainee, education and workforce subcommittee, whose own GP surgery in south Yorkshire has seen doctors who move abroad, said that an “exodus of GPs overseas” would be “another disastrous blow for general practice”.
The increasing strain on NHS resources
The profession is threatened by a recruitment crisis, with many training places still to be taken up this year, and 400 left unfilled in 2014.
Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of GPs told Pulse: “It is very worrying that such concerted efforts are being made to encourage GPs to work overseas at a time when the shortage of family doctors across the UK is so severe.
“Campaigns such as this demonstrate how critical it is for the government and otherReuse content