Australia the winner of UK’s healthcare crisis

After a decade working in Britain’s besieged National Health Service (NHS), Harshal Deshmukh had had enough.

The father-of-two uprooted his life and moved his family to Mackay, Queensland, in March.

There were “many reasons” the endocrinologist wanted to leave the United Kingdom, but regularly seeing “elderly patients treated in hospital corridors” because there were not enough beds was a trigger.

Since moving to the Sunshine State, the 45-year-old says he has seen his salary nearly triple and has found the work hours more sustainable.

“I feel more happy working here, which I had missed,” he said.

“I have an extremely better lifestyle for my family now, the weather is great and there are always outside activities to do with my kids.

“While I was in the UK, I always felt that I was under pressure to discharge the patient to fill the clinic and see the patient as soon as possible.”

He is just one of thousands of doctors leaving the UK’s healthcare system as the NHS faces an exodus of staff moving overseas.

Why UK doctors are leaving

Australia is the most popular destination for UK doctors, according to the country’s regulator, the General Medical Council (GMC).

More than one in five medicos who quit to work abroad are heading Down Under.

In 2022-2023, 1974 British medical professionals relocated to Australia – a 67 per cent increase from 2021–2022.

“We’ve seen a huge increase in the number of doctors both wanting to leave and actually making steps and then leaving,” Dr Vivek Trivedi, from the British Medical Association, said.

“The NHS is in a struggling state and has been for years because of underfunding in both services and wages. Any metric you look at, we’re failing patients.”

According to a March survey by global data-gathering company Ipsos, 35 per cent of Brits described the NHS as an important issue.

The UK’s general election will be held on 4 July and both the Conservative government and opposition Labour Party are expected to make key pledges with regards to the country’s health system.

The lobbying has already begun. Health workers across the UK have been taking industrial action over the past 18 months.

Dr Trivedi says corridor doctoring has become the norm.

“Patients are waiting tremendously long times and actually having bays demarcated in corridors with no privacy, no curtains, where they’re waiting 24 hours, sometimes even longer, before a decision is made on where they can go because there might not be enough beds in the hospital,” he said.

There are more than 7.5 million cases on the NHS patient waitlist while one in 10 people are waiting more than three weeks to see a GP.

“It doesn’t take a genius to wonder why doctors want to go to there [Australia], especially when on top of all those things, they are paid far more than they are currently here in the UK,” Dr Trivedi said.

Dr Deshmukh said he would have been “lucky” to see a patient for a follow-up appointment in England within three months and it was always rushed.

“The waiting lists in the NHS and how things are overall, it’s becoming more and more difficult for doctors to provide right, adequate and safe care for their patients,” he said.

“It’s not like this in Australia. I get to spend ample amount of time with my patients and if I want to follow them up in two weeks, I’m able to do that much easier.”

Nurses holding placards outside a hospital
NHS nurses make a point about pay during a strike outside London’s St Thomas’ hospital. (Reuters: Maja Smiejkowska)

Australia welcomes influx of doctors

The NHS brain drain has meant a welcome boost of frontline workers in Australia.

“They’ve made a huge difference to rural and regional Australia, but to our workforce as a whole,” Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president Nicole Higgins said.

“Over half of the doctors in our rural and regional areas have got their qualifications from overseas.”

The queue of medicos does not appear to be thinning out, either.

A GMC April survey found one in three doctors wanted to move abroad in the next 12 months and 51 per cent of respondents said Australia was the country they planned to relocate to.

Of the 3154 practising doctors surveyed, more than half were burnt out or disillusioned by the current state of the healthcare system in the UK.

“We’ve been undertaking strike action, unfortunately, because our government ignored us when we had these concerns,” Dr Trivedi said.

“At our picket lines, we had ads from Australia advertising the life and working conditions over there enticing our doctors to leave, because they know that they don’t even have to offer anything amazing – it’s just the standard.

“I can’t fault anyone for thinking they’ve tried too much and it’s not for them anymore here.”

© 2020 Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.
ABC Content Disclaimer

- Our Partners -


- Advertisment -
- Advertisment -