Planning to leave the NHS? For the huge number of doctors who say they are contemplating a move, Jane Braithwaite shares details of the support available that can offer a route to an alternative career path.
The last year has been a struggle for everyone in some respect, but for those working in the NHS the pressure of dealing with Covid-19 has been immense.
We all vividly remember the battle to provide everyone in the health service with adequate PPE, so they felt some level of protection, closely followed by harrowing images of faces battered and bruised by long periods of wearing masks.
Those working in primary care had to adapt to deliver a Covid-safe environment for patients and transform the provision of most services using technology to provide virtual consultations.
As vaccines became available, GP practices and hospitals have worked something close to a miracle to ensure they can be administered throughout the population rapidly.
We have recently seen a new campaign entitled ‘If I die, it will be your fault’, launched by the Institute of General Practice Management to call for an end to abuse from patients following their latest report, which concludes that most GP receptionists face unprecedented levels of abuse at work.
And now the same NHS staff face the challenge of dealing with long waiting lists of patients whose treatment has been delayed by Covid.
A report earlier this summer from the BMA delivers a stark and worrying insight into how doctors are feeling right now, and the evidence is clear that many of them are unhappy and are considering leaving the NHS in the next year.
It said: ‘Thousands of exhausted doctors in the UK have told the BMA they are considering leaving the NHS in the next year, as many continue to battle stress and burnout without adequate respite from the exhaustion caused by the demands of the pandemic.’
Responses came from over 4,000 doctors and 31% of them stated they are more likely to take early retirement, which has more than doubled since the survey was done 12 months ago. Half of the respondents said they are more likely to work fewer hours and 25% more likely to take a career break.
The survey also suggests a strong desire by many to continue to work, but in a different environment. Twenty per cent of respondents are more likely to leave the NHS for another career, with 17% considering working in another country and 14% more likely to work as a locum.
If doctors follow through on these desires to retire, work fewer hours or leave the NHS for another career, huge resource gaps will develop in the NHS.
Of course, over time, the desire for some doctors to leave the NHS may decline and the NHS pension may be an important factor, but for those who are considering alternative careers, I wanted to investigate and share details of the support and the organisations available that can offer a route to an alternative career path.
Before considering the options, it is also helpful to understand the reasons why there is a desire to leave the NHS, as this gives useful insight into the objectives of doctors when seeking alternative careers.
We often assume, when it comes to career choice, that money is the greatest motivator for most individuals.
But the BMA survey showed that pay was quoted as the main reason for leaving the NHS by 29% of the respondents, while workload and personal well-being drew a much higher response.
Forty-four per cent of respondents looking to leave the NHS said that workload was a factor and 43% highlighted their own personal well-being.
So in looking for alternative careers, opportunities that offer a more manageable workload and a better work-life balance will be hugely appealing.
Of course, finances will be a significant factor for many and a great place to look for helpful information is Medics Money.
Medics money was founded by Dr Tommy Perkins and Dr Ed Cantelo to help doctors, dentists and other professionals make better financial decisions. Of particular note, Ed is a GP trainee and also a chartered accountant and tax adviser with nine years’ experience at accountancy firm PWC.
On its website, you will find a wealth of resources in the form of articles and eBooks, but its most valuable offering is a series of podcasts in which it covers a huge range of topics of relevance to the profession.
Its latest offering, called ‘Episode 44 – The NHS pensions trap with salary sacrifice’, would be a good listen as would ‘Episode 25 – Using a limited company to save tax and invest to retire early’.
One obvious option for doctors looking for a career outside the NHS is, of course, private practice, and with a greater desire for improved well-being and a more manageable workload, this is most definitely an option that may appeal to many.
The aim of Private Practice Pro is to help doctors launch, run and grow their own private medical practice. It is founded by Mr Giles Davies, consultant oncoplastic breast surgeon, and Tom Davies who is a lawyer and former chief investment officer of Seedrs.
Private Practice Pro offers a video-based course for doctors looking to set up in private practice with Giles acting as medical coach and Tom as business coach.
The course is made up of over 55 on-demand videos complemented by 30 templates and guides and, for interested doctors, Private Practice Pro regularly runs webinars and small-group workshops.
For the more entrepreneurial doctors, Doctorpreneurs is a global community of doctors, medical students and other interested individuals focusing on healthcare innovation and entrepreneurship.
In its most recent newsletter, it includes an inspiring interview with the chief executive and founder of Tympa Health, which is a London based start-up that has created the world’s first, all in one, hearing health assessment system.
It also includes details of job opportunities across a wide range of sectors. This is a good place to start to understand the type of job opportunities that are currently available and it is an exciting discovery.
It is free to join, and you simply sign up on its website.
My final suggestion is Medic Footprints, who provide ‘The world’s biggest gateway to alternative careers for doctors’.
This is again an organisation led by doctors, providing a wealth of information on their website regarding changing career and connecting doctors with career coaches who can help manage the process.
Their job board presents several exciting opportunities including some overseas roles that will appeal to those doctors interested in working outside the UK.
You can join their community for free on their website or upgrade to their premium package for access to their series of webinars and a free CV review.
In my search for supportive organisations for doctors when looking for a career change, I also discovered that the NHS provides further information on its website.
Back in 2017, NHS England published a paper offering guidance for doctors looking to leave the NHS, which included a selection of organisations including Medic Footprints.
In an ideal world, we would all like doctors to enjoy their career within the NHS and to want to stay, but right now it seems the best approach may be to ensure that the wealth of talent is not lost and is engaged in other rewarding healthcare careers that ultimately benefit the UK population now and in the future.
In my role as MD of Designated Medical, I work with many doctors pursuing either a full- or part-time career in private practice and I would be happy to help anyone who would like to know more about getting started.