Comparing work as a surgeon: UK vs NZ

Five minutes with Consultant Mark Grant

Consultant Mark Grant is originally from the UK but moved to New Zealand 18 years ago. He completed most of his medical training in New Zealand, eventually specialising in soft gastric/upper GI surgery (“I make big people skinny,” he says.)

Between 2014 and 2016, Mark returned to the UK to work and has been back and forth a few times, giving him an insight into the differences between the two health care systems.

We asked him what differences he has found between the UK and NZ working as a consultant general surgeon.

What was the attraction to New Zealand?

I did the typical British thing. I came over on a Working Holiday Visa to play rugby. Then I met a local girl… then lost the girl and kept the dogs.

How does working as a medical professional in NZ compare to your experiences in the UK?

It’s significantly better here than the UK. Registrars are more hands-on – similar to what the UK was like ten years ago. The NHS has more availability (gear and equipment), but New Zealand is catching up.

The people are different too. Kiwis have a ‘yes’ approach. In the UK, it’s ‘no’ first and then you have to persuade them around to your point of view.

How did your job in New Zealand differ from the UK?

Despite being a sub-specialist, I do some general surgery in New Zealand. I think as a doctor, you have to be more open do doing general work. There’s more people in the UK, so there was enough to just do upper GI surgery.

Consultants also do a lot more hours in the UK – up to 60 or 70 hours per week. Here, I do six sessions a week and I’m finished by 5 pm most days. It means I can get outdoors and get away on days off.

How does the lifestyle compare?

It’s more expensive to live here… though I’d say houses are cheaper in Auckland than in London. Food costs more, but dining out is similar… electricity is more expensive.

The salary here is much better – from a surgeon’s point of view you get paid more for doing less hours. But I can see that New Zealand might go the same way as the UK in time.

What tips would you give a surgeon or doctor thinking about moving to the UK?

They really need to decide what they want. Auckland and Wellington are a couple of the only major cities so they should consider smaller towns.

It’s important to think about that fact that its miles away from home and it’s hard to get back when you need to. But I have friends who say it’s a great place to raise kids and there’s lots of fun things to do. It’s not Europe, but I ski here more than I would if I was in the UK and there’s also lots of outdoor activities like mountain biking and tramping/hiking.

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Rachael Walsh
30 September 2018Article by Rachael WalshMedrecruit Editor