No calling has faced a sterner examination in recent years than the medical profession.
Many took a beating though the pandemic and are still suffering.
And there are now desperate times in the United Kingdom where more than 36,000 junior English doctors did the unthinkable in April and went on strike.
Their reasons were many and varied.
Not everyone in the sector was convinced striking was the right course of action.
But most did with a sense of despair and helplessness, feeling they had few alternatives.
Inevitably, strike action is about money and that was indeed the case in the UK.
But to reduce it to that would be to drastically simplify what is a toxic, heaving mess, driving many young doctors to Australia, others out of the profession and sadly a small number to suicide.
Why did UK doctors strike?
There are nearly 70,000 junior doctors working in the UK, most of them within the NHS.
A tick over half of them chose to strike for the second straight month, this time for 96 hours between April 11-15 in 2023.
They previously went on strike earlier in the year, between March 13-15.
Key to their demands is a 35% pay rise which the British Medical Association says would bring remuneration back to 2008 levels.
Pivotally, the BMA illustrated that wages for junior doctors had fallen 26% in the last 15 years, to the point where they now earn less money than a coffee shop barista.
Anecdotally, The Guardian reported that Sarah, a Foundation Year 1 doctor, earned a daytime rate of just £14.09 (A$26.09) per hour.
She had studied at medical school for six years, amassing a debt of more than £84,000 (A$155,500) with an interest rate of 6.9%.
Exacerbating this clear inequity is the additional responsibility that is falling on junior doctors in the UK.
Many of these junior doctors are thrust into senior positions taking on massive workloads and responsibilities.
They are confronted with all the pressure but without the rewards.
Some are responsible for upwards of 50 patients and without a shred of assistance from a more senior physician.
The reality is, junior doctors are baring the brunt of a broken system.
They are being burdened with a mountain of clinical procedures and patient diagnoses because there are not enough hands on deck.
They are also responsible for medical students and foundation doctors within their teams.
In addition, many find themselves on call, working overnights and weekends.
Young doctors are instantly thrust into the front line to help plug holes as the demand for medical services from an ageing population continues to outstrip the supply of doctors.
That supply continues to suffer from defections abroad or out of the profession.
Staff shortages have left emergency departments bulging at the seams, putting further pressure on those left in the system.
That increased workload inevitably leads to doctor burnout.
Doctors in the UK are also calling for improvement in areas such as:
- Flexible shifts
- Better preparation of staff for their roles
- Comfortable rest areas and shower facilities
- Access to hot food and drink during a shift
- Safe and secure car parking
- Regular breaks
- Basic equipment
- IT provided to allow working from home roles where possible
Australia: A new hope for UK doctors
Nearly 5000 UK doctors leave their homeland every year, many of them moving to Australia.
Like the UK, Australia has a GP shortage.
Unlike the UK, doctors in Australia enjoy:
Better pay – GPs in the UK earn an average of £70,000 per year. In Australia, you can more than double that figure with doctors earning a percentage of a practice’s income, potentially around the equivalent of £150,000-£200,000 depending on the circumstances.
Better conditions – Doctors in Australia work between 35-38 hours a week compared with around 50 in the UK.
Less stress – Average appointment times in Australia are six minutes longer meaning you are less inclined to feel like you are working on a factory line.
Less paperwork – Everyone hates doing paperwork. You’ll be better supported in Australia where paperwork times average around 51 minutes per day compared with 87 in the UK.
Better lifestyle – This needs little explaining. Australia’s mainland capitals enjoy 65% more sun than London. And they all lie on the coast, including AHA’s beachside Seaford locations!
Ease of transfer – Most International Medical Graduates (IMGs) in Australia arrive from the UK thanks to the similarity of the undergraduate and postgraduate training systems between the two countries. Most UK specialist doctors are also recognised in Australia.
Lessons to be learned
The UK’s medical system is in danger of collapse and there are lessons we simply must learn.
Make no mistake, Australia does a lot right.
Private Health Insurance, which is taken up by 55% of the population, offers tax breaks to those who pay for it, easing pressure on the rest of the public system.
But despite this, Australia’s health system is still showing signs of duress.
Many cities are reporting multiple instances of ambulances ramping as emergency departments begin to overflow.
The Australian government, in consultation with the Medical Board of Australia and other relevant authorities, needs to ensure the medical profession in Australia:
- continues to be well remunerated
- is well resourced with state-of-the-art equipment
- supports doctors of all levels and qualifications
- isn’t overworked and enjoys adequate breaks and flexible hours
- encourages more students into the profession
- streamlines the process for doctors wishing to move to Australia
Contact AHA Clinics today
Australia is a great place for doctors to work – especially UK doctors fed up with the system at home and seeking a new adventure.
You’ll earn more money, work fewer hours under less pressure and enjoy Australia’s laid back way of life that is the envy of the world.
But it’s also important to choose the right practice – one that supports you every step of the way, helps you make the big move down under and encourages the work/life balance that suits you.
At AHA Clinics, we work closely with GPs moving to Australia, offering them personal support, Visa help, access to our real estate partners, guidance with insurance, free use of a car on arrival and so much more.
Our two clinics are situated at Seaford and Seaford Meadows in the heart of Adelaide’s glorious southern beaches.
At AHA Clinics, you’ll be able to work as many or as few hours as you like to support the lifestyle you desire.
From day one, you’ll have a list of patients waiting to meet you!
Our purpose built, modern and striking facilities utilise natural light and make coming to work here a dream.
If this sounds attractive to you, please get in touch.
We’d love to help you anyway we can.
Our AHA leadership team will contact you soon to see how we can help and arrange a no obligation discussion.