British GPs choosing expat life over NHS

Published:  28 Jan at 6 PM
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Britain is now worse off for qualified general practitioners than Estonia, Romania and Malta.

In the past five years, over 1,000 GPs have left the UK, with many deciding to practice overseas as expats. Shortages of general practitioners in the UK have been made even worse by a report which revealed 40 per cent have left the NHS for private practice. The shocking figures are taken from official statistics in which the UK was rated 16th out of 21 world countries for GP coverage.

The statistics showed an average of 76 GPs for every 100,000 inhabitants, with Greece at the bottom of the league table with just 42 per 100,000, Spain with 75, Latvia with 72, Slovenia with 68 and Bulgaria with just 64 GPs per 100,000. Popular expat retirement destination Portugal has three times as many GPs then has Britain, with 253 general practitioners serving 100,000 people. Analysis of the statistics suggests Britain’s poor results are evidence that its primary care provision is close to crisis level, although a spokesperson for the Patients Association is claiming the UK’s service works better than those overseas, even with far fewer GPs.

Reasons given for leaving the NHS by GPs either retiring early, going onto private practice or becoming expats include the increased demands of elderly patients and unmanageable workloads. Numbers of British GPs applying for the certificates required for permission to work overseas have doubled over the past 10 years, with 40-hour working weeks and higher salaries an irresistible lure for many. Others are planning to retire early and live overseas in order to avoid the high rates of tax payable on pension pots totalling over £1 million. Combined with the high number of qualified EU medical practitioners leaving the UK due to Brexit, rumours of an NHS crisis may not be an exaggeration of the situation.
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