Junior doctors should be forced to pay back some of their training costs to the NHS if they work abroad after qualifying. Niall Dickson, head of the NHS Confederation which represents senior managers, said staff shortages were the biggest concern for the health service. It costs the taxpayer £220,000 to train each doctor and some trusts are suffering from severe shortages.
New doctors would be forced to remain loyal to the NHS, as if they were in the military, for a set period under the proposal. Niall Dickson, head of the NHS Confederation, suggested that doctors sign a contract for several years with the NHS. A similar idea was floated by Jeremy Hunt, the health and social care secretary, at the Tory party conference.
Senior managers are concerned that the pressures of working in overstretched NHS hospitals would make a life in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada, which all recruit from the UK, more attractive.
Mr Dickson wrote on The Sunday Telegraph website: “Much of the public debate about our NHS is around funding. But ask those who lead the healthcare organisations, and often you will find there is a more pressing concern. They cannot recruit the staff they need. There are now 45,000 clinical vacancies in the English NHS: each one means that a job that should be done is not being done or has to be covered by the frontline staff who are there.”
He added: “We could consider whether it would be reasonable to ask every graduate to give a certain number of years’ service back to the NHS in return for the contribution society has made.” Mr Dickson said the government was “turning the ship around” but added: “Further measures must include a further expansion of training places. One of the biggest errors of the past has been an exaggerated fear about the prospect of medical or nursing unemployment.”
The British Medical Association said the plan would deter undergraduates from entering medicine. Mita Dhullipala, co-chairwoman of its medical student committee, said: “We must address the underlying reasons why many leave the NHS, which are primarily to do with workload, stress and burnout.”
The Department of Health and Social Care said: “The government is continuing to consider how to obtain return on the huge taxpayer investment in medical training. Health Education England will report back on this matter by spring 2018.”