Healthcare and Oil in the GCC

Healthcare and Oil in the GCC

Our Business Development Director, Jim Godsal, is just back from a trip to the Middle East with Carol Mercer and Yan Scouller. He has taken some time out to write this blog exploring the impact that oil prices have on the healthcare sector around the GCC and explain what that means for medical recruitment.

Since we first expanded into the market in 2011, the Middle East has been a core part of our business. We’ve worked extensively with private and public sector clients in the UAE, Qatar, KSA and Kuwait, where there’s been a constant requirement for Western trained Doctors, as well as consistently high levels of interest in the region from the Doctors themselves.

Falling oil prices have clearly had an effect on the region as a whole - the major powers in the region all have economies built on the oil sector. This has been reflected in redundancies and recruitment freezes reported, especially within the public sector, as well as a push for nationalisation within government – lessening their reliance on ex-pats. So my trip to the Gulf this month was the first real test of this regional healthcare boom and I was unsure of what the current economic conditions would mean for GCC healthcare.

Each country in the GCC has reacted differently to the fall in oil prices, and it is notable, if unsurprising, that the more diverse the economy the less impact the price drop has had. The economic plan for the UAE from its inception was to put in place plans for life after oil, and the UAE is already the most diverse economy - now an established tourism and financial hub. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that on our visit the UAE seemed the least effected.

Recruitment into government healthcare has definitely slowed, with recruitment on hold entirely with some clients. However, the feeling is that healthcare has, to an extent, been caught up in government wide recruitment policies – cuts have been made across government departments as they look to nationalise the sector, when in reality Healthcare will always be reliant on an ex-pat workforce in the Gulf, due to the scarcity of nationals who train as Doctors. Indicators suggest that healthcare recruitment has fallen under an all-encompassing political hiatus, but it will wriggle free in time.

Governments across the region are still injecting massive sums into healthcare – rising to $69billion across the GCC in 2020. We saw clear evidence on our trip in both Qatar and the UAE of plans for new hospital openings still going ahead, these hospitals are going to need Doctors and local Doctors simply don’t exist in any quantity. Articles like this from the Doha News only reinforce this point, reassuring us (and our Doctors) that the industry will continue to develop.

Continued growth is all the more apparent in the private sector, particularly in the UAE, where we met with private healthcare providers who are expanding their operations, as well as a number of well-known international healthcare providers who are starting to invest and establish themselves in the market. This can only mean more jobs for Western trained Doctors.

There’s caution in the market place, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Projects are more realistic and we’re not seeing some of the outlandish remuneration packages that were on offer 2-3 years ago. We are, however, seeing continued investment and growth, and healthcare is still being put at the forefront of the regions plans, central to the infrastructure plans for Expo 2020 in Dubai and the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar. Career opportunities are still attractive, within state of the art healthcare facilities and extremely well rewarded. When you couple this with the growing investment in healthcare from outside the region, notably from Europe and Asia, plus the renewed focus on primary healthcare, the outlook for healthcare in the GCC is reassuringly positive.

For information on Consultant opportunities in The United Arab Emirates including Dubai and Abu Dhabi, contact Carol Mercer on +44 (0)131 240 5273 or email


For information on Consultant opportunities in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, contact Annie Nicholson on +44 (0)131 240 5251 or email


For information on GP opportunities in the Gulf, contact Yan Scouller on +44 (0)131 240 5274 or

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