Posted on 10/11/2017 by David Burgess
NHS workforce planning must include data on how many doctors are heading overseas
WITH another cold and dreary Scottish winter looming, it is not hard to see the appeal of Christmas barbecues on the beach and weekends spent sunbathing and surfing as Australia gears up for another no-doubt scorching summer.
As Shirley Rogers points out, this is a lifestyle that appeals most to newly-qualified doctors who are young and not yet tied down by a fixed career path or family responsibilities.
But as Peter Bennie also notes, a "significant number" who move overseas end up doing so permanently which is both a woeful loss of talent to the NHS and a waste for taxpayers who funded their training.
The latest concerns about an exodus of GPs from Scotland to Australia come as NHS Scotland's workplace planning came under scrutiny from MSPs. It is worth noting therefore, that data recording exactly how many Scottish-trained medics head overseas is not routinely recorded.
National Education Services, the body in charge of medical schools in Scotland, gathers statistics on how many training places are filled after medical graduates complete their two-year foundation training in hospital and select a career in general practice or as a specialist consultant. However, it does not hold data on how many junior doctors drop out of NHS Scotland altogether - either to work abroad, elsewhere in the UK or because they are taking a career break.
There are signs, however, that the number of medics leaving Scotland to work abroad is growing.
Doctors who wish to work overseas must apply to the GMC for a Certificate of Current Professional Status (CCPS), which allows them to register with foreign medical boards.
Recent figures obtained under freedom of information showed that 5,044 Scottish-trained doctors had applied for a CCPS since 2008. Not all doctors who obtain a CCPS actually go on to work abroad, and the GMC does not keep track. However, it was estimated that 2,895 must be working overseas because they were no longer linked to a UK-based "designated body" to carry out their annual appraisal, fitness to practise checks and validation.
The highest number of CCPS certificates were issued to Scottish-trained doctors 2015 and 2016 - 663 and 612 respectively - suggesting the lure of a foreign posting was growing.
In 2015, Dr Frank Dunn - then president of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow - said it was "puzzling" that Scotland seemed to be struggling more than England to retain young doctors despite high-profile problems with privatisation in NHS England. Figures compiled by the College at the time found that 16.6 per cent of medical graduates from Scottish universities had gone overseas within three years, compared to 7.6 per cent in England.
Concerns have also been raised that Scottish students now account for just 51 per cent of medical school places, compared to 63 per cent 17 years ago. Non-Scottish students may boost fees for universities - but they are also more likely to leave Scotland once training is complete.