GMC survey on doctors wanting to leave the UK should raise loud alarm bells for government, says BMA

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: UK
Published: Friday 12 April 2024
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Responding to the GMC’s ‘Identifying groups of migrating doctors’ report, which found that 13% of UK-based doctors surveyed said they were ‘very likely’ to move abroad to practice medicine in the next year, and a further 17% saying they are ‘fairly likely’ to do so, BMA representative body chair and workforce lead Dr Latifa Patel said:

“When we’re already short of doctors, these figures are incredibly worrying – showing almost a third of doctors surveyed saying they are likely to move to work abroad in the next 12 months. If the intentions laid out in this survey are followed through across the workforce this year, losing such a significant proportion of the UK’s medical expertise would be disastrous for patients.

“That so many doctors say they are looking to leave for overseas is not surprising though, when we consider the immense pressures healthcare staff are under in an overwhelmed service battling huge workforce shortages.

“The impact of these pressures on doctors’ health and wellbeing, as seen in this survey, is inevitable. So, when doctors see the better pay and working conditions, and improved lifestyle and sustainable work-life balance on offer overseas – often championed by aggressive advertising campaigns – for many it will be an offer they feel they cannot refuse.

“Here in black and white we see the main factor driving UK doctors away is pay, and that the majority (75%) feel professionally undervalued. It should therefore only increase the volume of the alarm bells ringing in the ears of government about the need to retain medical expertise by reversing the real-terms pay loss all doctors have experienced, and making good on pledges to reset the pay review process. This evidence piles further pressure on ministers to settle their ongoing pay disputes with doctors across the UK, ensuring that we are never again in a situation where pay and conditions erode to such a degree that such alarmingly high numbers of doctors are considering or actively planning to leave the country.

“While current policy attention appears almost exclusively on hiring more doctors, there is clearly a desperate need to also stop the flow of doctors leaving the health service prematurely.

“There is much more employers and policymakers can do to support doctors in their workplaces and improve their working lives – including seemingly simple things such as providing fit-for-purpose computers and somewhere to rest or park their cars at their workplace.

“Currently, doctors are clearly distressed that they are unable to provide the standards of care that patients deserve and that they trained to provide. When more doctors leave – as forecast by this survey – this situation will only get far worse.”


Notes to editors

  • GMC report available here.

The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.