RCGP fears 'mass exodus' as GP applications to practise abroad double

The number of GPs applying to move abroad has doubled since the coalition government took office in 2010, official figures show.

Dr Maureen Baker: GP mass exodus fears (Photo: Pete Hill)

More than 500 GPs applied to the GMC for clearance to practise overseas in 2013, up from 266 in 2009, according to information obtained by the Labour party.

RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker said the ‘mass exodus’ of GPs ‘driven by soaring demand and plummeting resources’ was a danger to patient safety.

Before moving abroad GPs are required to apply for a 'certificate of good standing' from the GMC to register with another country’s regulator. The DH points out that obtaining one does not necesarily mean the doctor will leave the country.

Rise in applications

Figures released show the number of GPs applying in England rose from 266 in 2009, to 329 in 2010, 370 in 2011, 466 in 2012 and 529 in 2013.

Labour has said it will recruit 8,000 extra GPs if it wins the next election, while the Conservatives said they will recruit 5,000.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said the prime minister had promised to put GPs in charge of the NHS but had instead ‘presided over a crisis in general practice and a collapse in GP morale’.

Last week’s ‘misjudged’ publication of CQC practice risk ratings had seen the profession's morale ‘plumbing new depths’, he added.

‘Cuts to the GP budget are placing intolerable pressure on services and forcing many GPs to move abroad or retire early in despair. People are already struggling to get GP appointments and things are set to get even worse.

Waste of GPs

‘This is a mess of David Cameron's own making and he must act now to stop the waste of NHS-trained GPs taking off overseas. He should start by instructing his health secretary to stop his clumsy and counter-productive attacks on GPs.’

Dr Baker said: ‘The mass exodus of GPs – driven by soaring demand and plummeting resources – is a clear and present danger to patient safety.

‘On the one hand, GPs are leaving the profession due to intense pressure and a lack of support, and on the other, not enough medical students are opting for general practice because they see the pressure we are under.

‘GPs enter general practice to provide good quality and safe care for our patients but this is becoming harder and harder to do as a result of falling funding and diminishing resources – it is easy to understand why working in other countries is becoming so appealing to GPs in the UK.’

A DH spokeswoman said: 'Requesting these certificates is not the same as going abroad, and most doctors who do return to work in the NHS with more experience. We are increasing trainees so that across the NHS GP numbers continue to grow faster than the population and we have 1,000 more since September 2010.'

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