By: 17 October 2016
Half of UK doctors planning to practise abroad

Almost half of doctors are looking to move abroad as their current experience of being a doctor is worse than they expected when they graduated, a new BMA study has found.

The BMA Cohort Doctor report is a ten-year study of 430 doctors who, nine years post-graduation, are mostly progressing through specialty training or are working as qualified GPs. The report provides insights into career choice and working environments in terms of workplace morale, work-related stress and work-life balance. The report is the tenth, and final, report.

The findings from this report show that:

  • 42 per cent of cohort doctors indicated that their current experience as a doctor was worse than they expected when they graduated;
  • 42 per cent of cohort doctors plan to practise overseas, a slight increase on previous years, with 10 per cent having applied for a certificate of good standing with a view to working abroad. Compared to previous points in their careers, the majority stated that they are now more likely to consider working overseas or leaving medicine, but are less likely to consider changing their specialty;
  • The proportion of doctors stating that their current levels of morale are worse than each previous point in time (foundation training, speciality training, one year ago) is consistently greater than the proportion who state that it is now better;
  • 16 per cent of doctors took a break from medicine – an increase in proportion from last year; The biggest causes of stress were work-life balance responsibilities, a shortage of doctors and high levels of paperwork;
  • The past four surveys have seen a deterioration in perceptions of working atmosphere, working conditions, pace and intensity of work and complexity of work.

Dr Ellen McCourt, chair of the BMA’s junior doctors’ committee, said: “We have been saying for some time that morale amongst doctors is at an all-time low and these figures show, once again, that doctors are on a knife edge. They are reaching their limit, and if stretched any further, they will walk.

“Given the results of this study, it makes no sense for the Government to rush the implementation of the junior doctor contract, which will only make things worse.

“With the NHS facing unprecedented pressure, it is critical to focus on how to assure its long-term future. Junior doctors are central to this. If even a small number choose to vote with their feet, the future looks increasingly uncertain.”

Source: British Medical Association (BMA)