Scottish officials go to Australia to persuade expat doctors to return

by Ray Clancy on March 1, 2016

Health board officials from Scotland are travelling to Australia to try to persuade expat GPs to return to the country which has a shortage of doctors.

The NHS Education Scotland delegates are attending the 2016 Ottawa medical conference in Perth but are also planning face to face with GPs working in Australia who are interested in returning to General Practice in Scotland.

“Scotland needs its trained GPs back. With the development of a new GMC contract underway, more investment in General Practice, access to the NHS pension scheme and a health service that is arguably one of the best in the world, there is much to commend working as a General Practitioner in Scotland right now,” said a spokesman.

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Those interested in doing so would need nothing more than a simple two to four week induction programme, managed by the Health Board whose Performers List they choose to join.

Those who have worked in NHS General Practice before and are currently working in a clinical post comparable to General Practice in the UK, for example in Australia, New Zealand or Canada, face no entry assessment and no lengthy waits to get a position.

“We are interested in attracting GPs in particular but are always looking to talk to any medics, specialists and healthcare staff who are interested in choosing Scotland as a place to live and work,” the NES spokesman explained.

“Recruiting abroad is not new to the NHS across the UK. Efforts have stepped up exponentially in the last few years as a lack of staff in key areas leads to higher costs in terms of locum or temporary staff, as well as the knock on effect to the continuity of care for patients,” he said.

He added that he did not know how many expat GPs were working in Australia but said Scots medics were in high demand because their education and training was first class.

One doctor who graduated in medicine from Edinburgh University in 2004 explained why he moved to Australia and has now moved back to Scotland. “We planned to go to Australia for one year and do some travelling on the way out, work for a year and then do some travelling on the way back and see it as an 18 month to two year period out and then come back and find something more permanent,” he said.

“However, before we knew it, I had spent five years as a GP in Australia, during which time my wife and I had a baby and, after she got towards the end of her maternity leave, we were at that tipping point where you either stay long term in Australia or move back,” he explained.

“Given we both have very close families, we decided to come back so they could play some part in the upbringing of our wee boy and so that we could help them as they get on a bit and become a bit more dependent,” he added.

He found the process of coming back to work in Scotland easier than he thought it would be. “I thought it might entail a retainer scheme that I would have to go on. I was pleasantly surprised when I only had to complete a two week supervised position,” he pointed out.

“It was decided that, given I trained in Edinburgh and was familiar with the area, two weeks of supervised practice would suffice. It all came back pretty quickly. Nothing had changed from when I was last working here,” he added.

However, he found the colder climate a shock. “But there are things that Australia really doesn’t have like the history, the proximity to Europe and all the cultural aspects of Edinburgh. Being so close to family was the main reason we came back and it is great to be nearer them. We’ve seen my family and my wife’s family a lot since we’ve been back and that’s been good,” he said.

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