between health systems
By Tom Aitken in London
While British and NZ experts recently discussed medical co-operation, the right wing Daily Mail ‘hysterically’ bemoaned the cost to Britain of doctors emigrating ‘for a life in the sun.’
It all came about because, as a NZ doctor pointed out, half of the doctors who emigrate are bound for New Zealand or Australia.
The discussion came at a seminar organised by the NZ-UK Link Foundation which debated the interchange of medical workers.
It covered the migration of health and social care workforce members between the two countries and was held at King’s College, London.
The Foundation was set up originally in 1990 as the Waitangi Foundation — and its latest seminar looked at patterns of medical migration, and the policies of the two countries.
Gauld noted that media coverage in the UK of the 2014 State of Medical Education and Practice report by the General Medical Council had focused on indications that around half of all migrating doctors were bound for Australia and New Zealand.
Mail’s ‘self-induced hysteria’
But the Daily Mail – surprise, surprise – responded (with its usual outrage and indignation): ‘…They cost us £610,000 to train… but 3,000 a year are leaving us for a life in the sun…’
Despite the Mail’s usual self-induced hysteria, not all who migrate from Britain do so permanently. A frequent pattern is a working holiday of one or two years’ duration, followed by a return home to family and friends.
This return, however, is not always permanent. A majority of British doctors who leave the country are seeking to escape the NHS, which they find increasingly bureaucratic and inefficient.
Doctors like the NZ ‘can do’ ethic
Opinion polls show that they find New Zealand’s public health care system a better environment than the NHS to work in. They also like the less bureaucratic ‘can do’ ethos of New Zealand.
Professor Gauld says New Zealand still relies heavily on the arrivals from Britain and elsewhere.
As Gauld remarks, there has always been a two-way flow of migrants — temporary and permanent — between ‘down under’ and the UK.
However, when it comes to doctors, the market is increasingly global and competitive; many nowadays can choose where they want to live and how long they want to live there.
Some go to New Zealand in search of work opportunities, especially younger doctors seeking training places.
Some want to see where Frodo trekked. Some are escaping to what they hope will be a more relaxed life and a better environment for their families.
Change in all the countries affected
Until recently New Zealand relied heavily on foreign inflow, but feels increasingly able, at least in some of the relevant areas, to grow its own practitioners, Professor Gauld says.It has progressively increased its local intake of medical students and a larger pool of graduates is now seeking employment.
Another factor is that Australia has become a tighter market for house surgeons and registrars, which means that New Zealand’s young doctors are more likely to stay at home. And, usefully and persuasively, the New Zealand dollar has strengthened noticeably.
But New Zealand is still some way from total self-reliance in staffing of it medical and welfare system. There is a vague aim to reduce the number of foreign doctors to 15% of New Zealand’s medical workforce by 2020 or so, he says.
However, general practice and psychiatry are still listed among areas in which skilled immigrants are welcomed with open arms — and the beach and the mountains are never far away.
What Professor Gauld had to say brought responses from Professor Jill Manthorpe, Director of the Social Care Workforce Research Unit at King’s, and Professor Stephen Bach, of the College’s Department of Management.
Professors Manthorpe and Bach added interesting British commentary on what Robin Gauld had said — and the debate ended in broad agreement about the principal points under discussion.
More informal discussions, which followed afterwards in a neighbour room, were encouraged and aided by an excellent New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc––but to my shame I cannot remember which of the many varieties it was!