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No need to act to stop doctors emigrating to Australia, says Prime Minister

No need to act to stop doctors emigrating to Australia, says Prime Minister
By Eliza Parr
3 July 2023

Doctors leaving the NHS to work in Australia is ‘not as widespread’ as people assume and a mandatory tie-in is therefore not necessary, according to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. 

Announcing the long-awaited workforce plan on Friday, Mr Sunak was asked whether there should be some mandatory element after training in order to address the ‘thousands of doctors’ who are ‘fleeing to Australia’. 

He said that when he and the health secretary heard reports of this, they were both ‘concerned’, but once they looked at the data they found that around ‘95% of people […] after they completed their foundation training were still working in the NHS’.

As such, the Government did not believe that a mandatory tie-in for doctors was the ‘right approach’, however this is currently being considered for dentistry, according to Mr Sunak.

The long term workforce plan pledged £2.4bn of Government investment in order to double medical school places and increase GP training places by 50% by 2031

Despite ‘retain’ being one of the three pillars of the plan, GP leaders have called the Government and NHS England out on their lack of plans to retain existing GPs.

Over 700 GPs left the NHS to work overseas between 2015 and 2020, according to GMC data.

When asked about doctors moving abroad, the Prime Minister said: ‘Look I read all those reports as well and I was concerned, the health secretary was concerned, and we sat down and we went through it all together, actually. 

‘We just went and looked through the data, and the data shows that it is not as widespread a practice as I think people assume it is.’

He added: ‘So the scale of what is happening is not at the level that people commonly assume it is, and for that reason we didn’t think it was the right approach.

‘But as I said, if we think there is an issue we are prepared to take action, and you’re seeing that with dentistry we’re contemplating whether it does make sense to introduce the tie.’ 

Earlier this year, an Australian minister launched a campaign to ‘steal’ UK doctors and other public sector workers by highlighting better pay and lower cost of living.

A third of junior doctors are planning to work abroad this year, with Australia being the top choice of destination, according to a BMA survey published in December 2022.

This story first appeared on our sister title, Pulse.

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