Why are British and Irish GPs in demand in Australia and New Zealand?

British and Irish GP in demand

British and Irish trained GPs are in demand across both Australia and New Zealand – but what’s driving the trend?   Working as a doctor overseas is a lifestyle many physicians never regret. The opportunity to live and work in another country broadens horizons and develops medical skills. For British and Irish doctors, Australia and New Zealand are popular choices – the lifestyle ‘down under’ regularly ranks among the best in the OECD and the health systems are comparative. Another reason many doctors consider working in Australia and New Zealand is that British and Irish doctors are in demand.  

What’s driving the trend?

Both countries currently have a shortage of doctors, particularly in rural areas. Shortages in a number of specialities fluctuate, but typically, qualified and experienced doctors from health systems like the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) and Ireland’s Health Service Executive/Feidhmeannacht na Seirbhíse Sláinte (HSE) can find good employment opportunities. This is because the health systems and qualifications between the four countries are broadly similar, so it is easier for governing bodies to ensure training requirements and other essential standards have been met (for a brief explanation of pathways, read this post).   It’s general practitioners who are most in demand. In New Zealand, the Royal College of GPs conducted a general practice workforce study which highlighted that 34% of GPs (excluding registrars) intend to retire within five years and 57% within the next 10 years. More than half of GPs in New Zealand are more than 52 years old. International medical graduates are essential in filling this looming gap, particularly in New Zealand’s scenic rural towns and regions; currently, 46% of rural GPs in New Zealand trained overseas.   In Australia, experts have suggested that general practice has been less popular with medical students and young doctors in recent years. The Australian Medical Association’s president, Dr Tony Bartone expressed concern in a July 2019 media release that GP training places were going unfilled: “Since 2015, we have seen a 20 per cent fall in the number of applications for GP training, and a six per cent drop in the number of first year GP training posts filled,” he said. Again, it’s rural areas where the shortage is more obvious – some have suggested that outmoded stereotypes of rural GP work linger and that there’s not enough training programmes based in rural areas to help dispel the myths. However, a first-of-its-kind national-scale study published in October 2019 reported that rural junior doctors were significantly more satisfied with their work-life balance than their metropolitan counterparts.  

Great general practitioners will always be in demand

Both the Australian and New Zealand governments have announced initiatives to increase the number of locally trained doctors, as well as incentives to encourage new doctors to stay in general practice by improving remuneration and benefits. However, the issue isn’t new and Australia and New Zealand certainly aren’t the only countries to report shortages within their health systems. As population numbers grow and life expectancy increases around the world, good doctors will always be in demand.   Medical recruitment agencies like Medrecruit exist to help match great doctors seeking new experiences with doctor job vacancies. Better work-life balance and career advancement are just some of the reasons British and Irish doctors we’ve worked with have moved to Australia or New Zealand.

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Bethany Rogers
14 January 2020Article by Bethany RogersMedrecruit Editor