Royal College of Emergency Medicine Menu Menu

GMC findings another red flag for Government

12 April 2024

The current state of the health service is compounded with retention problems. This is evidenced in the third in a series of research reports commissioned by the General Medical Council (GMC) to explore doctors’ migration intentions and drivers.

It draws on findings from a survey of around 3,000 doctors, including doctors currently practising in the UK, those that have left the UK to practise abroad, and those that have returned.

Feeling undervalued, a lack of progression opportunities and disillusionment with the UK’s healthcare systems, are just some of the motivations researchers identified that make doctors want to leave – and thousands could be considering UK practice. This is extremely worrying for a profession already in crisis and adds a further dent in public confidence.

The report highlights included:

  • General improvements to workplace conditions could have the biggest impact on retention
  • A negative view of UK practice was a key factor, with the report showing a widespread perception that the UK’s health systems are ill-equipped to provide patients with the care they need
  • Over 75% of doctors reported feeling under-valued professionally, demonstrating a concern with pay.

Reacting to the results, Dr Adrian Boyle, President of The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) said: “This comes as no surprise and the disaffection with the working conditions in hospitals, including lack of space, lack of resources and lack of investment is palpable.

“Like most professions, doctors take enormous pride in what they do, and the biggest rewards are seeing people well and saving lives. But patient care is being compromised through no fault of the staff working tirelessly in a system that is failing them and those they are caring for.

“There is an urgent need to focus on retention, which is the focus of the College’s Psychologically Informed Practice and Policy (PIPP) Project.

“The powers that be need to step in now with meaningful intervention to make the system and its clinicians sustainable.

“Doctors are questioning their vocation and the country in which they practice – this should be a huge red flag to government.”

Charlie Massey, Chief Executive of the GMC said: “This is a stark reminder of the challenges we face in the UK, but it also presents valuable insight into how healthcare leaders, employers and workforce planners can target interventions to improve conditions. Though the number of doctors actually leaving to practise abroad in 2023 was comparably low, these findings are a warning to all should conditions fail to improve.”

According to the latest GMC data, approximately 4,000 doctors who gave up their licence to practise or left the medical register in 2023 gave ‘going to practise abroad’ as one of their reasons for leaving.

The report showed that some migration is inevitable and natural – a third of leavers were returning to a home country, 9% to carry out caring responsibilities, and that numbers migrating into the UK are high.

Read the full report here.

Back to top Back to top