College reacts to GMC’s Identifying groups of migrating doctors report

The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (“the College”) has responded to the GMC commissioned Identifying groups of migrating doctors report. The report examines the reasons that doctors in the UK may be considering, or have already made, a move abroad.

Key findings include 13% of UK-based doctors indicating that they are ‘very likely’ to move abroad to practice medicine in the next 12 months, with a further 17% saying they are ‘fairly likely’ to do so. Those doctors most likely to indicate they will move abroad to practice medicine are found to be dissatisfied on multiple fronts with the political environment, UK healthcare systems and its effects on their wellbeing.

The survey includes doctors indigenous to the UK and also international medical graduates who have come to work here.

Commenting today Professor Andrew Elder, President of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, said:

This is an important report which once again highlights the extent of discontent and concern among doctors across the UK at a time when our NHS remains overstretched. If the level of migration of doctors suggested by the survey is borne out the impact on patients could be severe.

Importantly, it is not only the working conditions in the NHS that provokes discontent, but also the view that our NHS is not meeting the needs of the patients it was created to serve.

Burnout among clinicians is a significant factor, and relates in part to the “moral distress” that occurs when a doctor cannot provide the care to patients they feel they should. The recent Physicians’ Census showed that 20% of respondents said they were at risk of burnout with more than 40% unable to take their full annual leave entitlement.

Fundamentally, doctors want to be, and feel, valued and to have working conditions that reflect that. The GMC’s report is right to recommend a focus on improvements to workplace conditions as having the biggest impact on retention. We will continue to press for a review of the amenities and services available to the medical workforce in each hospital including wellbeing and mental health support.

Although it is encouraging that so many doctors who qualified overseas are happy working in the UK, many of them will return to their home country, if career opportunities and conditions of work are better than in the UK. 

The report must act as another wake-up call to the governments of the UK to do far more to focus on the retention of doctors in our health service and persuade doctors to stay in the UK. We have consistently called for additional and urgent action on retention as well as new recruitment and this report reinforces the need for this.