Pushed or pulled? Overseas medical recruitment and the proposed 7-day week for UK Consultants

A few weeks ago, our Senior Recruitment Consultant, Alasdair Spinner, sent out a mailer to our candidate database, detailing the benefits of living and working in Australia. In light of recent discussions regarding a possible 7-day working week for Consultants, several national news agencies picked up on the story. Here is his response:  

In July I emailed my bi-monthly job alert to our database of radiologists. This database is made up of UK-trained, UK-based Doctors and also Doctors who work overseas or who have completed their training in a country other than the UK. In order to receive these job alerts, Doctors need to have registered on our website and have given their consent to receive our mailers. 

The email was similar in theme to hundreds I have written to senior professionals over the years. It included a variety of jobs in Australia that my clients had asked me to source Consultant Radiologists for.

There was one important difference however. In this particular email there was a link to a Guardian Online newspaper article regarding the controversial comments made by Jeremy Hunt, Minister of Health, concerning the proposed 7-day working week for Consultants. 

I tied this in with the benefits on offer in Australia, given the potential implications of what the minister was saying:

“Given the Health Secretary’s speech today regarding a new weekend working contract for Consultants, it may actually be time to start thinking about a new life in Australia where the work/life balance not only genuinely exists as a way of life, but is also promoted by the employer as a unique selling point.”

A few days later I received an email from The Times asking this question:

"How would you respond to critics who say you should not be trying to tempt Consultants from a specialism the NHS desperately needs, to work overseas?"

The angle that The Times journalist was working was obvious, and I didn't comment to avoid any possible media misinterpretation.

Following the article going online, the BMJ and Pulse also ran with the story. It seemed odd to me that a national reporter could assume that triple-degree qualified medical experts – some of whom have published articles and books, have international profiles and get paid six figure salaries – could be so easily duped and ‘tempted’ by a mere medical recruiter into resigning their position to relocate their entire family to the other side of the world to work fewer hours and earn more money. Much as I rate my own influencing skills, I’m not that good. I’d like to think that Doctors in the NHS have minds of their own.

Of course Doctors don’t just leave the UK because they are worried about the NHS or their jobs. Medical professionals have always travelled the world plying their trade. Most of the 500+ doctors we have helped felt the lifestyle opportunities in places like Australia for were too good to ignore. 

Having made this move myself, I can fully appreciate the benefits that Australia offers. Whether it be living on your own farm or vineyard, going for a surf before work, canyoning or kayaking through beautiful gorges, or living by the river in Brisbane, Australia offers exceptional leisure opportunities for families and individuals alike. 

First-class health and education systems, cultural diversity, proximity to Asia, its low population density, and developed infrastructure attracts migrants from all over the world to Australia. A move there does not need to be permanent. Many doctors have enjoyed moving overseas on sabbatical, becoming Fellows of their respective Colleges in Australia and then subsequently returning to the UK.

This year I returned from Australia for family reasons after 14 years – both my sons were born in Sydney and went to school there. The whole family has citizenship and my father lives there. One day we may return. We see ourselves as extremely fortunate to have the choice.

What do you think? I will be at the Royal College of Radiologists' Annual Scientific Meeting next month in London! If you are there please come and say hello.

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