British Doctors Look to the Sun
For many around the world, the UK’s NHS stands as an ideal healthcare system. However, cracks are beginning to appear as changes in the way it operates are causing British doctors to look overseas for new career opportunities.
Figures published by The Guardian revealed that the General Medical Council received 3,468 requests for certificate of current professional status in just 10 days following confirmation of new contracts for junior doctors late last year. The new contracts, which come into force in August 2016, threatened a 40% pay cut and anti-social working hours and indeed catalyzing the recent junior doctor strikes instigated by the British Medical Association.
Regardless of the new contract conditions, over 22,000 doctors in the UK have applied to work overseas in the last eight years.
While it is likely many of these doctors will not end up working abroad, the figures highlight the allure of a fresh start in a new place. Many doctors from the UK head to Australia where they can earn up to three times more than they could in the UK. Coupled with a much-improved climate, its no small wonder that so many doctors are looking to move.
Given the shortage of medical professionals the Middle East is facing, it is not hard to imagine that it could end up being a huge beneficiary of the flow of doctors. Indeed, the rise of medical tourism and specialty clinics in the region, especially in Dubai and the rest of the UAE, should provide a great incentive to attract both established specialists and young doctors looking to hone their skills in a given field.
Greg Wood of Your World Healthcare sees the exodus of doctors from the UK as a positive for both the Middle East and the UK. In a recent article for Arab Health Magazine, he explains that British doctors can bring specialist knowledge to the regions in which they work while also learning a great deal from the way other health systems operate.
The demand for doctors in the Gulf region shows no sign of abating. The question that remains is whether it can draw doctors away from more traditional destinations such as Australia and the United States, something it would seem well placed to be able to do.