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UK doctors in New Zealand stay for job satisfaction and lifestyle

Authors: Helen Jaques 

Publication date:  26 Jan 2012


Doctors who trained in the United Kingdom but have chosen to work in New Zealand often stay in their adopted country because of higher levels of job satisfaction and a preference for the lifestyle, a study in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine has reported (2012;105:25-34, doi:10.1258/jrsm.2011.110146).

Almost nine in 10 (89%) of the 282 UK trained doctors living in New Zealand who responded to the authors’ survey said that they intended to stay in the country, although only 30% had originally intended to emigrate permanently.

The UK trained doctors working in New Zealand reported higher job satisfaction than their contemporaries back home (8.1 out of 10 versus 7.1) and higher satisfaction with their leisure time (7.8 versus 5.7).

The UK is a net exporter of doctors to developed countries such as Australia, Canada, and the United States yet it is relatively dependent on inward migration of international medical graduates, most notably from the developing world, say the study’s authors.

“Workforce retention, even between developed countries, is important for global health equity,” said Trevor Lambert, a statistician from Oxford University who led the research team. “If a developed country has a net loss of doctors to other developed nations, there is a greater likelihood that it will make up the shortfall by recruiting from the developing world.”

This study looked at 38 821 UK trained doctors from 10 graduation year cohorts, 535 (1.4%) of whom were registered with the New Zealand Medical Council in 2009. More than two thirds (69%) of the doctors moved to take up a medical job, 2% took up other work, and 25% moved for personal reasons.

Most of the respondents who had moved to New Zealand did so for professional reasons relating to training or long term career opportunities. Other reasons given for relocating included better lifestyle, to be with family, the opportunities for travel or a working holiday, or disillusionment with the NHS.

Some respondents said that they would be more likely to return to the UK if changes were made to NHS working conditions or if administrative changes were made to ease the process.

Helen Jaques news reporter BMJ Careers

 hjaques@bmj.com

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