New doctor contracts and Brexit deterring medical graduates from practising in the UK

The new junior doctor contract and the Brexit result may be pushing medical graduates to leave the UK, a survey has found

June 2 2017

Medical students from the University of Edinburgh believe that changes to the junior doctor contract in England and the result of the EU referendum might lead them to look for jobs outside of England. 

Students across all year groups from the 2016-17 cohort were asked to complete a questionnaire about their career plans for after graduation. The survey was answered by 236 students in total. 

The junior doctor contract in England was amended last year with, among other things, a change in pay for working unsociable hours. Although Saturday daytime hours will be paid at the normal rate, night shifts and other weekend hours will be paid at a lower rate than previously.

Some 77 per cent of the respondents said they were now less likely to practise medicine in England in light of this change. This did not vary significantly between English, Scottish, international and EU students, and none of the respondents were more likely to practise in England following the change.


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The students were instead considering practising in Scotland (chosen by 90 per cent of respondents), Australia (55 per cent), New Zealand (45 per cent) and Northern Ireland (24 per cent). Of those respondents who were still considering clinical practice in England, 40 per cent were more interested in private practice. Respondents were able to select more than one country.

Other contributing factors cited as deterrents to working in clinical practice in England were working conditions (93 per cent) and salary (72 per cent).

Robin Borchert, one of the authors of the survey, said that “it was important to recognise the concerns and plans of UK medical students because until now, the effect of Brexit and the new junior doctor contracts has focused on current junior doctors without considering the impact of these events on the next generation of NHS doctors. 

“The results suggest that the main concerns of medical students are salary and working conditions and that addressing these issues may be a means by which we can incentivise and ensure the retention of medical students in England, and the UK as a whole, once they qualify.”


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Students were also asked how Brexit had influenced their plans post-graduation, and 33 per cent said they were now less likely to work in the UK as a result. These respondents cited concerns around working conditions, future immigration laws and research opportunities as their reasons for wanting to work outside of the UK. Only 5 per cent said that Brexit made them more likely to stay in the UK. 

Those looking to leave were also considering Australia and New Zealand as places to practise, as well as Canada, Ireland, the US, France and Germany. 

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