Lucy Dunn Lucy Dunn

We need to stop junior doctors leaving the NHS

Credit: iStock

Quit your job, leave the country, move to Australia. This may once have sounded like a hastily-planned midlife crisis, but in 2023 these life plans are more representative of doctors’ across the country. Four in ten junior doctors plan to leave the NHS as soon as they can find another job, a survey by the British Medical Association (BMA) has found. 

The poll asked over 4,500 junior doctors about their plans for the future. A third want to leave the country within the next year to work abroad, Australia often being their number one destination. Over 80 per cent cited real-term pay cuts as the reason they wanted to leave the health service. A similar number referenced poor working conditions. 

This follows a recent BMA survey of 3,819 junior doctors in England, which found that 65 per cent of respondents have, over the last year, ‘actively researched’ leaving their NHS jobs. Nearly 80 per cent of this cohort ‘often think about leaving the NHS’. 

In a few weeks, the BMA will ballot junior doctors in England for industrial action. BMA Cymru has, in recent weeks, announced that junior doctors in Wales are considering taking industrial action; while doctors in Scotland are looking to ballot for strike action in 2023. What would it take to stop these strikes going ahead? Wage increases of 26 per cent.

The health service would not be able to cope if so many doctors left the NHS to work abroad or in a different field of work, warned Professor Philip Banfield, the Chair of the BMA Council, in a New Year address to BMA members. ‘We will not tolerate the chaos that we contend with every day at work or acquiesce to those looking to slash pay and drive down living standards.’ 

With clear routes out of the NHS to foreign health services, there has to be a certain level of compromise if we want to retain our medical workforce.

To ask for 26 per cent is a considerable demand, especially when other public sector workers are striking for significantly less – and their requests are still not being met.

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