UK vs New Zealand: Which is better for doctors?

IMG doctor in New Zealand

For medical professionals, the UK and New Zealand represent two attractive, yet distinct options. Each offers unique opportunities and challenges, and the decision on where to practice medicine can significantly impact a doctor's career and personal life. This article compares these two countries in terms of their healthcare environments, lifestyle, remuneration, and work-life balance to help doctors make an informed choice.

Healthcare systems:

UK: The National Health Service (NHS) is the backbone of healthcare in the UK, known for its comprehensive coverage. However, doctors often face high pressure due to workload, resource constraints, and patient volume. As a result of Covid-19 many medical systems suffered a strain on resources and they are still recovering. Both the New Zealand health care system and the NHS suffered as a result of this global pandemic, but the New Zealand's recovery seems to be faster.

New Zealand: New Zealand’s healthcare system is a mix of public and private. It is less crowded compared to the NHS, offering a more relaxed working environment. New Zealand is known as an early adopter of technology. The 2009 Commonwealth Fund survey ranked New Zealand first for advanced electronic health information capacity among primary care physicians.

It’s significantly better here [in New Zealand] 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. Dr Mark Grant

Lifestyle and living conditions:

UK: Offers a rich historical and cultural experience, with easy access to Europe. Urban living is predominant, and the cost of living can be high, especially in cities like London.

New Zealand: Known for its stunning natural landscapes, outdoor lifestyle, and a more laid-back approach to life. New Zealand offers a high quality of life with a lower population density. Overall, the cost of living in New Zealand is generally considered to be higher than in many other countries, particularly in larger cities such as Auckland and Wellington. However, costs can vary significantly depending on where you live and your lifestyle.


UK: Salaries for doctors in the NHS are structured and transparent but generally lower compared to other countries. The cost of living can offset salary benefits, especially in major cities.

New Zealand: Doctors tend to earn higher salaries than their UK counterparts, and the cost of living is generally more manageable, providing a better financial situation for many. Generous relocation packages are now available for International Medical Graduates who are looking to stay for at least twelve months.

Work-life balance:

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UK: The NHS's intense workload can often lead to a challenging work-life balance, though this varies by location and specialty.

We are faced with an ever-increasing workload in general practice and days are increasingly long and busy. It can feel like an uphill struggle when trying to simultaneously manage routine problems, consultations and home visits as well as providing urgent care for those who need it. Dr Jenna Fowler, GP

New Zealand: Typically offers a more balanced lifestyle, with less emphasis on overtime and more opportunities for leisure and family time.

That elusive, beautiful unicorn of a concept called ‘Work-Life Balance’ I mentioned earlier? Turns out it exists after all! I work 3 days a week, have the energy to meditate and exercise most days, have lost 12 kg (intentionally; fear not fellow medics), and go exploring or hiking most weekends. Dr Nicky Anto

Professional growth and opportunities:

UK: Provides extensive training and career development opportunities, particularly in specialised areas of medicine.

New Zealand: While offering fewer specialties, it provides a supportive environment for professional growth with more hands-on opportunities in diverse roles.

Choosing between the UK and New Zealand for a medical career depends on individual priorities. The UK offers a robust, well-established healthcare system with excellent training opportunities but can be demanding. New Zealand, meanwhile, promises a more balanced lifestyle and competitive remuneration in a less pressured healthcare environment. Ultimately, the decision should align with one’s professional aspirations, lifestyle preferences, and personal commitments.

Interested in making the move to New Zealand?

Relocating overseas to pursue a medical career is a significant undertaking, and the backing of a medical recruitment agency can be helpful. Medrecruit features a specialised IMG team, comprised of individuals who've personally navigated moving to New Zealand, ready to provide authentic advice on transitioning to life "Down Under." What's more our service is completely free for doctors. To find out more about working as an IMG in New Zealand, register, and one of our IMG team will be in touch to discuss opportunities and set you up for a successful relocation.

"In the UK, the process is quite rigid, there’s a strict procedure. The listings go up at a certain time, there’s a certain number of places and at the end, you find out whether you have a place or not. In New Zealand, there’s a little bit more of the traditional ‘who you know’ system. You’ve got to figure out how to get your foot in the door which can be challenging. I’d had a look at things myself and had a rough idea of what I needed to do, but I wanted someone to guide me through it. That’s when I found Medrecruit and I’d spoken to people back in the UK who said they’d gone through recruitment agencies when working in NZ and the Medrecruit name cropped up a few times." Dr Andrew Deans

IMGs in New Zealand are in high demand, especially if you are an IMG GP! With a large and diverse healthcare sector offering numerous opportunities for professional growth and development. Whether you're looking for a metropolitan lifestyle or a peaceful rural existence, New Zealand has something to offer every IMG.

For IMGs, New Zealand not only offers a chance to advance professionally but also to enjoy a high quality of life. While the process of moving and establishing oneself in a new country can be challenging, the rewards, both personal and professional, are immense. Whether you choose New Zealand or its neighbor Australia, both provide world-class opportunities for foreign-trained doctors.

Medrecruit Editorial Team
13 December 2023Article by Medrecruit Editorial TeamMedrecruit Editor