Britain’s Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, is unleashing new plans to fine doctors who wish to move abroad to carry out their profession after they have completed their training.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the moves are seen as highly controversial. These latest developments are unlikely to help with healing the deep divisions that exist between the Health Secretary and the thousands of medical professionals across the country, many of whom were forced to strike on multiple occasions earlier in the year due to contract changes that the Government have been attempting to impose on junior doctors.
The Chair of the British Medical Association (BMA), Dr Mark Porter, has argued that the Government’s focus should be on resolving issues within the NHS and making a greater effort to understand why so many doctors are considering taking their careers elsewhere. Pay is likely to be a key issue, though not the only one. Doctors are being forced to work longer hours in the UK and often hospitals are under-resourced and inadequately funded. However, an unnamed spokesperson for the Government has said that whilst the Government is committed to funding more ‘home-grown’ doctors, these doctors will be expected “to guarantee… a period of service in the NHS in return.” According to Government figures, it costs around £200,000 to train every doctor.
The Health Secretary says that the move is about preparing the NHS for the future and justify the plans to produce more home-grown doctors by asking if it is right to take away doctors from poorer countries that need them. Meanwhile, shadow Health Secretary Diane Abbott has argued that Hunt has lost the confidence of the medical profession and shown them little regard during the entirety of his time in office.
Abbott’s claim may well be justified. The language used by senior politicians towards the medical profession is cause in itself for alarm. Prime Minister Theresa May recently accused the BMA of ‘playing politics’, when it should be ‘putting patients first’ like the Government. The Health Secretary himself, in response to the recent strike action, said that the strikes were ‘devastating’ news that would cause ‘anxiety’ to patients up and down the country. Such comments appear to blame the junior doctors for the situation, rather than taking a hard look in the mirror and reflecting on the concerns from doctors and patients throughout the whole of Britain. Whilst the remarks made by Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt do not specifically relate to the BMA’s response to plans to fine doctors wishing to move abroad, it clearly demonstrates a wider problem which is that the Government are failing to respond to a vast range of concerns.
Rather than allowing doctors the opportunity to exercise their profession abroad, it seems the Government will be making this much tougher in the future. While the exact details of the proposals are to be thrashed out, it seems as though the future of the medical profession in Britain looks set to face further anguish from the Health Secretary, who is effectively telling doctors to either stay or pay.