More than a thousand doctors plan to leave the NHS as a result of the government’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic and frustration over low pay, a shocking new study has found.
In a survey conducted by Doctors’ Association UK, doctors also reported growing levels of stress within the medical profession – and increased concern over mental health.
Two-thirds of participants in the study said they intended to either switch to the private sector, move abroad or take a career break within the next three years.
Dr Samatha Batt-Rawden, president of Doctors’ Association UK, told the Guardian: “NHS doctors have come out of this pandemic battered, bruised and burned out.” The high number of medics claiming they will leave the NHS is “a shocking indictment of the government’s failure to value our nation’s doctors,” she added.
“These are dedicated professionals who have put their lives on the line time and time again to keep patients in the NHS safe, and we could be about to lose them.”
The survey – which reached nearly 1,800 doctors across the UK – asked: “Has the pandemic and the government’s treatment of frontline doctors during the pandemic impacted your decision to stay or leave the NHS?”
Almost seven-in-ten respondents said that Covid-19 had made them more likely to leave the health service. Asked where they saw themselves working in the next three years, almost two-thirds of doctors said they would be leaving the NHS – prompting concern about an understaffing crisis.
The most common reason for wanting to quit was the lack of a real-terms pay rise. The government recently announced a 2.8 per cent pay rise for doctors in England – but it does not cover most GPs or trainee doctors.
Other complaints included a lack of PPE, limitations on being able to speak publicly about issues within the NHS, the repealing of promises to NHS staff made during the pandemic and the impact of coronavirus on mental health.
One doctor said: “I feel the government regard NHS workers as cannon fodder generally. Poor pay, poor conditions, inadequate PPE, flimsy promises made for political gain. After 20-plus years in the frontline, I am burned out, sick and unsupported.”
Another, from an EU country, said they planned to return home because of “the xenophobia and at least weekly mockery of my accent (from consultant colleagues and other staff),” adding: “I’m absolutely certain I’m making the right decision but also sad to be leaving a system that, despite all, still provides such great care. But I’m done sacrificing my mental and physical health for it.”
Labour’s shadow health minister Justin Madders, a shadow health minister, told the Guardian:“It comes as no surprise that the government’s incompetent handling of the pandemic has pushed many doctors into thinking about leaving. Against a backdrop of years of pay restraint, it seems that they feel their recent efforts in the fight against coronavirus are not appreciated.”