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Half of doctors planning to work abroad, says BMA

4 October 2016

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Nearly half of doctors are looking to move abroad as their current experience of being a doctor is worse than expected, a new British Medical Association study has found.

The BMA Cohort Doctor report found that 42% of 430 doctors plan to practise overseas, with 10% having already applied for a certificate of good standing with the intention of working abroad.

Some 42% also said that their current experience as a doctor is worse than they thought it would be when they graduated.

The report is a ten-year study of doctors who, nine years post-graduation, are progressing through specialty training or are working as qualified GPs.

Most of the doctors said that they are now more likely to consider working overseas or leaving medicine than they were earlier in their careers. But they are also less likely to consider changing their specialty, the report found.

Furthermore, the number of doctors who say that their current levels of morale are worse than during foundation training, specialty training or one year ago, is consistently greater than the number who state that it is now better.

The past four surveys have seen a deterioration in perceptions of working atmosphere, working conditions, pace and intensity of work and complexity of work, with 16% having taken a break from medicine.

The biggest causes of stress were said to be work-life balance responsibilities, a shortage of doctors and high levels of paperwork.

Dr Ellen McCourt, chair of the BMA’s junior doctors’ committee, said: “We have been saying for some time that morale amongst doctors is at an all-time low and these figures show, once again, that doctors are on a knife edge. They are reaching their limit, and if stretched any further, they will walk.

“Given the results of this study, it makes no sense for the Government to rush the implementation of the junior doctor contract, which will only make things worse.

“With the NHS facing unprecedented pressure, it is critical to focus on how to assure its long-term future.  Junior doctors are central to this. If even a small number choose to vote with their feet, the future looks increasingly uncertain.”

The report provides insights into career choice and working environments in terms of workplace morale, work related stress and work-life balance. This report is the tenth, and final, report.