Junior doctors planning to leave UK cost taxpayers £2.8bn


Newly qualified doctors could earn over £128,000 at a private hospital in Australia compared to around £40,000 in the UK – Leon Neal/Getty Images

Taxpayers spent £2.8bn training doctors who said they ultimately planned to leave Britain to practice abroad last year, Telegraph analysis shows.

The number of doctors applying for a certificate to work abroad reached 8,661 in 2023 – a 10-year high and 20pc more than the previous year, according to figures from the General Medical Council (GMC).

The total is higher than the previous peak in 2015, when 8,625 doctors applied for a “Certificate of Good Standing” to help them find work abroad amid widespread protests over working conditions.

However, the exodus of British doctors has coincided with a rising taxpayer bill to fund their training.

The cost of training a junior doctor to consultant level jumped by 10pc from £530,816 in 2021 to £584,102 in 2022, according to data from the University of Kent’s Personal Social Services Research Unit.

The Government estimates that 72pc of this cost is funded from the public purse, meaning the British taxpayer is now spending £420,533 to train each consultant.

It comes as junior doctors begin an unprecedented six-day strike over pay – the longest in NHS history.

Health service waiting lists hit a near-record high of 7.71 million in October amid industrial action that saw doctors strike for 38 days last year.

The Telegraph’s analysis used the share of GPs, specialists and junior doctors who told the GMC they were leaving the UK to work in a foreign country to estimate the total training cost of the 8,661 doctors requesting a certificate to work abroad last year. The share of the total training cost footed by the taxpayer for these individuals was £2.8bn.

Thousands of newly qualified doctors are being lured to countries including Australia, Ireland and Canada with the promise of salaries of more than double what they can earn in Britain. Dr Rob Laurenson, co-chair of the British Medical Association’s (BMA) junior doctors committee told The Telegraph last week that he was considering leaving Britain to work in Vancouver, Canada.

Dr Rob Laurenson on a junior doctors picket line

Dr Rob Laurenson told The Telegraph he is considering leaving the UK to work in Canada – Geoff Pugh

One job advert targeting fourth-year UK graduate doctors promised a salary of A$240,000 (£128,749) at a private hospital on Australia’s Gold Coast. The equivalent baseline pay for a medic of this level in Britain is upwards of £40,000.

Wanting to work abroad has overtaken retirement as the most popular reason for doctors quitting the UK workforce, with 25pc of those relinquishing their licences in 2021-22 doing so to practise in a foreign country, compared to 24pc who cited retirement, according to the GMC’s 2023 workforce report.

The most popular relocation countries were Australia (21pc), New Zealand (8pc), Ireland (7pc), and Canada (4.7pc).

A BMA survey of 4,553 junior doctors in December 2022 found that a third (33pc) planned to work in another country within the next 12 months.

Dr Adrian Boyle, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, previously told the Telegraph that after qualifying in Britain, high levels of burnout among doctors was causing them to reduce their hours or quit.

Around 200,000 appointments and operations are expected to be cancelled this week due to the junior doctor walkout.

The BMA has been pushing for a 35pc pay rise for junior doctors, which it said would restore their earnings after inflation to 2008 levels. Talks broke down after ministers offered only a 3pc bump to an average 8.8pc increase, already in place, before a deadline set by the union last month.

NHS chiefs said the strikes have “decimated” plans to cut NHS waiting lists and warned that cancer patients, expectant mothers and those requiring eye surgery risk being harmed in the busiest week of the year.

The Government was approached for comment.