Over a third of medical students plan to leave Wales after they graduate

Press release from BMA Cymru Wales.

Location: Wales
Published: Tuesday 26 March 2024

A BMA Cymru Wales survey of medical students has revealed that 39% plan to leave Wales after graduation to start their medical careers elsewhere with better pay and working conditions cited as the main reasons not to stay.

The survey of students at Cardiff, Swansea, and Bangor’s medical schools revealed that 80% of those who intend to leave Wales plan to begin foundation training in England and 15% in Scotland where junior doctors receive higher pay.

Out of the students who intend to stay in Wales after graduation, just 25% are currently planning to stay beyond their foundation training. For those who are looking to leave, most plan on working in Australia and New Zealand.

66% of respondents planning to leave the NHS in Wales said current pay and working conditions had influenced their decision. 87% said higher, more competitive pay elsewhere was the main driver in their decision to leave with 46% saying the pay for doctors starting their careers in Wales didn’t even meet the current cost of living in Wales.

90% of respondents indicated that improved pay would influence them to stay in Wales. Other factors stated by medical students to help them to decide to stay were improved working conditions (71%) and better financial support during education and training (59%).

48% of respondents who said they will leave Wales after graduating also said that the poor state of the NHS in Wales was also a major factor in their decision.

Other findings included 98% of students support the current strikes by junior doctors seeking to restore their pay which has been cut by 29.6% in real terms since 2008/9.

Erin Flaherty, Chair of the BMA’s Medical Students Committee in Wales said:
“With rising living costs, student debt and competitive pay elsewhere it’s little wonder that over a third of medical students in Wales plan to leave after graduating.

“After investing a significant amount of time and money studying medicine in Wales 39% of students still feel they are unable to start their careers in the country, it’s a terrible situation for medical students but also for patients and the future of the NHS.

“A doctor starting their career in Wales will earn as little as £13.65* an hour and for that they will be providing lifesaving care and taking on huge levels of responsibility, it doesn’t seem like a good investment for anyone.

“With rising numbers of patients waiting for treatment, we need to see those in power turn the tide on this issue and this should start by offering fairer pay for hard-working doctors before even more are lost to neighbouring UK nations and further afield”.

The survey was completed by 125 medical students studying in Wales.
Junior doctors in Wales are currently in a pay dispute with the Welsh Government and are currently engaged in their third strike over pay, a 96-hour full walkout – the longest yet.

Commenting on the survey co-chairs of the Welsh Junior Doctors Committee Dr Oba Babs-Osibou and Dr Peter Fahey said:

“The fact that students are now actively looking to leave Wales to develop their career elsewhere is a testament to the prolonged undervaluing of doctors in Wales. Students -the future of the profession have already realised that they can seek out better pay and conditions even before they graduate.

“We will continue our fight for fair pay for all doctors working in the NHS. It is no surprise that we are losing doctors as they search for better pay and conditions elsewhere. Losing our doctors at a time when waiting lists are at record highs will mean patients suffering more than they are already.”

Notes to editors

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.