Anyone who has been following the British press in recent months will be patently aware of just how much pressure the National Health Service is under. Waiting times in both doctor’s surgeries and hospitals have come under fire, and are becoming a divisive political tool. Both sides of the debate blame the other, while medical facilities continue to miss the agreed targets.
With such a media frenzy it is no surprise that politicians are working overtime to assess the causes of such a “meltdown” and to seek remedial action that will shore up the NHS and improve patient satisfaction scores. Further investigation reveals that at least part of the problem with the NHS is simply a lack of family doctors, which is leading to some surprising initiatives…
According to statistics, while attending medical school is as popular as ever before, too few medical students are opting to become GPs at the end of their training. Instead, they are being tempted away for other medical roles that offer higher salaries and/or a better work:life balance. The growing target-driven culture introduced into the NHS to boost effectiveness is also said to be having a negative impact on the morale of British doctors if some sources are to be believed. In essence, other medical roles offer better perks and have been incentivised over the GP role.
As a result, the number of family doctors in the UK has been slowing down, and as a result has failed to keep pace with the UK’s ever-growing population. The time it takes to train new GPs is considerable, so even if the incentives for training are changed now, it could be years before the NHS – and the British public – feel the benefit.
What is the solution then when faced with a serious shortfall of doctors, with no immediate solution for training a new cohort of GPs to bridge the gap? The answer, of course, is importation. The NHS has come up with a surprising solution; namely to try and bring back British GPs living and working as expats in Australia.
For many years those with medical qualifications – not just doctors but also nurses too – have found it easy to relocate to Australia. The visa situation is simple as priority is given to those with ”in demand” skills – which includes many medical careers. As a result, many doctors who trained in the UK have since relocated to Oz, enjoying the outdoor lifestyle and better working conditions offered by the Antipodes.
Now it seems that the NHS has begun advertising in Australia for doctors, hoping to encourage expats to return home to the UK for a job. Quite how successful the campaign will be remains to be seen, though the government should be applauded for considering every possible avenue for improving healthcare in the struggling British system.