Accident & Emigration
The Great British Brain Drain
BBC Panorama reported on the problems of recruitment and retention in Accident & Emergency (A&E)
departments in the NHS. The College of Emergency Medicine states that there is a shortfall of up to 375 registrars
. One of the key problems is that A&E doctors can often have a better quality of life working in the same department in Australia.
Brain Drain and the Risks
Emergency medicine is becoming a problematic area for the NHS. It is quite common to hear stories about A&E departments shrinking
, only opening on certain days, or closing altogether. This puts more pressure and stress on the departments that are still open.
Combine this with the fact many doctors aren't choosing to specialise in emergency medicine and trauma
, and the few that do are now emigrating because of the pressures.
This all means that A&E departments are in crisis, and they may not be able to deliver proper standards of care
to their patients. Longer waiting times will be a consequence, since they have to travel further to get treatment, and then wait for the understaffed department
to get to them.
The Panorama Report
The recurring theme throughout the Stockton part of the report was a reference to the 'Target Olympics'
where Doctors were racing between patients in order that they were seen within prescribed time limits
. Despite what the perception can sometimes be, A&E staff were desperately trying to treat their patients in a proper manner, but were constantly having to rush away
when the so-called target Olympics meant that they had to attend to another patient.
This was echoed by Dr John Thompson, 46, who used to practice emergency medicine in the University Hospital of North Tees in Stockton, but now lives and works in Fremantle in Australia.
"The pressures are less in Australia and the emphasis primarily for my working day is on patient care
." John says. He cites the pressures from 'above' for the state of A&E departments and his reason to leave.
There is a shortfall of 750,000 consultations
between doctor and patient - simply because the doctors don't exist to do them.
Medicare V the NHS
It's no secret that NHS doctors are often under a pressure
which for many is too much to bear. When they realise that they can emigrate to Australia for a better life it is hard to apportion blame.
While the Australian universal healthcare system 'Medicare' is not exactly the same as the NHS, it's a far cry from the American system
It seems fair to say that British doctors are not 'selling out to private practice'
, but they definitely are receiving a better offer elsewhere. The staff that were presented in the show were passionate about the work they do, and cared for their patients. However they were impeded by targets and a lack of staff
to fulfil them without supporting their patients properly.
The NHS should consider these alarming statistics
a wakeup call.