A GP's perspective on moving to New Zealand
One of our previously placed GPs, Ruaraidh MacKassack-Leitch, has been kind enough to write about his experience obtaining a job in New Zealand...
I was one of those medics who had been on the conveyor belt through school, university, foundation years and GP specialty training. I knew that in the current climate that I could easily find work anywhere in Scotland on either temporary or permanent basis, but did not want to commit to anything long term or tie myself down. So, in appealing to my natural dithering state, I decided that now was the perfect opportunity to get out of the system and attempt to gain a fuller perspective on being a GP and how/where I actually fitted in.
I starting looking at work experience abroad. New Zealand was a natural choice more for a variety of reasons. The first is that my uncle has been working as a GP in Nelson for over 20 years and really enjoys it. Another is that I had never heard a bad word about NZ as a country – everyone I knew who had been loved it. Thirdly (and perhaps most importantly), if I went out now I would be there when the British and Irish Lions tour in summer 2017. I would also be able to play rugby as a pastime, this being something I have loved for as long as I can remember.
I looked through various GP recruitment sites online and followed up recommendations by colleagues. Debbie Kirk at Head Medical seemed more organised and knowledgeable about what I needed to do compared with other agencies, and it helped that their office was only a 10-minute walk from my flat. They listened to my ideas and came up with a selection of opportunities that suited my preferences. The interviews, offers, contract negotiations and registration/immigration processes were made very straightforward (barring the occasional visa-related bureaucracy) and I was happy to accept a 1-year contract in Ashburton on the South Island.
I have now been living and working in Ashburton for almost 3 months. It is a small and friendly place, and all of NZ is easily accessible due to its central location and proximity to Christchurch. I have been able to visit stunning locations like Akaroa, Arthur’s Pass and the Marlborough Sounds so far, with plenty more locations pencilled in for future weekends and holidays.
As for working as a GP in NZ, there are a few key differences. I have been helped tremendously through the transition by the practice team and my supervising GP. Overall I would say that the workload is akin to the locum shifts I did prior to leaving the UK. Most days I work from 8:20am (consulting starts 9am) and leave somewhere between 6–7pm.
From an administrative point of view I look after a cohort of patients, but the workflows are not too taxing. In my practice we cover minor injuries so I have had to dust off skills from my A+E attachment to suture lacerations, wash out bites and manage suspected fractures. We also have mandatory OOH commitment, but this equates to roughly one evening per month and one weekend day every 6 weeks. These are on-call and can be call free.
There are some limitations placed on what GPs can do for their patient within the public system. Additionally I have had referrals bounced from the health board due to a lack of capacity, not clinical inappropriateness. But if someone has insurance or the means to pay for private treatment, then the facilities and services are excellent.
I have struggled with the fee paying and charging aspect of the job. This does not sit well with my view of a healthcare system and I feel it excludes people who require medical help. I have far fewer depression and mental health consults, which I suspect is because this patient cohort are less motivated and choose not to spend their limited income on visiting the GP. Rarely would I do a home visit due to the higher charge and patients pay more OOH. The main exception is the fantastic fully-funded ACC scheme, which works really well for patients and especially at getting people back into work.
Overall I think this has been a good move. The opportunities both professional and personal that NZ has to offer are ideal for me at the moment. The help and service from Head Medical made this a pain free process and I would not hesitate to recommend them. It is not all sunshine and rainbows, but you’d struggle to find anywhere else that matches up to New Zealand.
To find out more about GP opportunities in New Zealand, contact Debbie Kirk on +44 (0)131 240 5279 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Find out more about living and working in New Zealand with our handy guide for GPs (opens in new window).
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