GMC report reveals why doctors may leave the UK

Factors driving thousands of doctors to consider leaving the UK have been revealed in research published today by the General Medical Council (GMC).

12 April 2024

The GMC commissioned research into finding out reasons doctors may be considering moving abroad. The report also makes recommendations for interventions that may persuade more of them to stay.

Some of the reasons doctors want to leave are because they are feeling undervalued, the lack of progression opportunities and the disillusionment with the UK’s healthcare systems. 

The survey asked doctors how likely they were to move abroad to practice medicine in the next 12 months:

  •  over 13 per cent of those practicing in the UK answered, very likely
  • a further 17 per cent of those practicing in the UK answered, fairly likely. 

More than 3,000 doctors, including ones who left the UK to practice abroad, had left and returned, or are currently working in the UK, answered how satisfied they felt with their jobs and their attitudes towards migration.  

Following the analysis of the data, researchers have split doctors into six groups based on shared attitudes and experiences towards work and life as a doctor in the UK:

  • Deep discontent.
  • System sceptics.
  • Burnt out.
  • Mobile career developers.
  • Open to opportunity.
  • Happy in the UK.

The report recommends that three categories; deep discontent, system sceptics and burnt out, should be considered a priority, viewing these as having the greatest chance to impact the workforce. Doctors in these three groups have been reported to feeling overworked and under supported leading to a negative view of UK practices.  

  • Over 75 per cent of doctors reported feeling under-valued professionally and demonstrated a concern over pay. 

The latest GMC data, shows that approximately 4,000 doctors who have given up their license to practice or left the medical register in 2023, stated going abroad, as one of their reasons for leaving.  

This new research builds on the GMC’s 2022 project Understanding doctors’ decisions to migrate from the UK which looks in more detail into the journeys and decisions made by doctors leaving UK practice.

Charlie Massey, chief executive, GMC said: "It’s much easier to dissuade someone from leaving by acting upon concerns, than to persuade them to return. There are no easy fixes, but these findings highlight the urgency with which we must act. We must work together as a system to make informed changes so the talented professionals keeping our nation well feel supported to continue working in the UK".