England’s loss will be Australia’s gain

3 minute read

As NHS conditions worsen, the British Medical Association predicts a continued doctor drain towards this great Land Down Under.

Australians all let us rejoice for we are young and free and also likely to see a continued influx of National Health Service escapees.

Doctors who trained in the UK and Ireland already feature prominently in Australia’s healthcare workforce; out of the 77 medical students who graduated from University College Cork in 2021, 62 have migrated to Australia.

Australia’s hunger for doctors won’t be satiated any time soon, either – a recent interim report on immigration processes for overseas-trained health workers argued that, because it takes a decade to train an Australian doctor, internationally-trained doctors are one of the only viable short-term solutions to workforce shortages.

Last week, the NHS published the first long term workforce plan in its 75-year history. It painted a bleak picture of the UK’s workforce, predicting a shortfall of 360,000 staff by 2037 if attrition continues at its current level.

As a solution, it proposes – among other things – to go ahead with an extraordinary and controversial apprenticeship model of doctor training from September 2024.

The British medical colleges had a welcoming, if somewhat cautious, response to the plan.

But in a scathing speech at the 2023 Annual Representatives Meeting in Manchester this week, British Medical Association chair of council Professor Philip Banfield lambasted the workforce plan, saying it represented a great investment in the healthcare workforce – just not the UK’s.

“Last week they announced this country’s greatest ever investment – in the future Australian healthcare workforce,” he said.

Do we detect a note of sore-losership? From England? Surely not.

Professor Banfield said investing in future medical school places without addressing years of pay erosion in the current workforce was illogical and would lead to a system with lots of students but very few teachers.

“The tragedy is that, with access to a Treasury that could easily – easily – fund full pay restoration across the four nations, the UK Government persists in its denial of a workforce crisis,” Professor Banfield said.

“It is ignoring the workforce crisis as the Australian government drives billboards to picket lines to advertise a better life for junior doctors.”

The Australian government, according to Professor Banfield, understood the motivations of UK-based doctors better than the UK.

GPs in England, he said, were on the brink of starting industrial action if the government failed to negotiate a new, fit-for-purpose contract.

“General practice is not the dumping ground for the failures and inefficiencies in secondary care – nor should it be,” Professor Banfield said.

“General practice is the cornerstone of a cost-effective and efficient health service. The unbelievable expertise they bring to managing risk will be lost at our peril.

“If we lose general practice, we lose the NHS.”

We, for one, welcome the mass migration to come and assure UK GPs they have nothing whatsoever to fear from a move to Australia.

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