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‘Better pay and flexibility’: Why two ‘burnt out’ doctors left the NHS for Australia

Dr Arpita Ghosh (R) and Dr Amit Saha (L) left the UK for Perth in 2018  (Amit Saha)
Dr Arpita Ghosh (R) and Dr Amit Saha (L) left the UK for Perth in 2018 (Amit Saha)

Doctors who left the NHS for Australia have said they have “no regrets" about their decision as staff in the UK are working in a “pressure cooker" and deserve better pay.

Dr Arpita Ghosh and Dr Amit Saha, a married couple, left the UK for Perth in 2018 after both training in the London region. They are among thousands of NHS employees to be tempted abroad by better pay and working conditions in recent years.

“I’m grateful to the NHS for making me the doctor I am, but it is crunched,” said Dr Ghosh, a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist who trained at Kings College Hospital in south London.

“The NHS is a pressure cooker. There is no comparison between your work-life balance in the Australian system compared to Britain. Pay also matters and there is a huge disparity between what is offered in both countries.

“We have autonomy here and flexibility, which is important for someone who has a family.”

Dr Amit Saha worked in London on the South Thames rotation and undertook paediatric training in London (Amit Saha)
Dr Amit Saha worked in London on the South Thames rotation and undertook paediatric training in London (Amit Saha)

A recent survey by the British Medical Association (BMA) found that four in ten doctors were actively planning to leave the NHS as soon as they can find another job. Last year, 6,950 doctors applied for a certificate to work abroad – an increase of 24 per cent on the previous year.

Last week, nurses went on strike in 55 NHS trusts in a dispute over pay with further walkouts set to take place next month. The Royal College of Nursing say that many feel burnt-out and undervalued, working long hours in stretched hospitals.

Dr Saha worked in London on the South Thames rotation and undertook paediatric training in London. He now works as a Consultant Paediatrician and Paediatric Gastroenterologist.

“The strikes are really sad but absolutely inevitable. The situation was untenable," he told the Standard.

“The most important thing that the Government should consider is that the NHS isn’t family friendly at all. That was the original reason I left my emergency department training when my daughter was born. The shifts I was doing were terrible. I would come home at 4am and that just doesn’t work.”

Dr Arpita Ghosh credited the NHS with making her a great doctor (Amit Saha)
Dr Arpita Ghosh credited the NHS with making her a great doctor (Amit Saha)

Dr Ghosh said that the doctor to patient ratio in the UK was not as high as in Australia, which puts “a lot of pressure” on NHS medics.

“There is also a brain drain and a loss of junior doctors. The rosters are getting empty and, because of Brexit, you aren’t seeing an influx of new recruits from other countries. Recruitment affects the amount of intensity that doctors face in their daily lives.”

Both doctors were recruited to Australia by St John of God Healthcare, a healthcare provider that runs 17 hospitals in Australia. It began touring UK cities in search of doctors, midwives and nurses last October.

Dr Saha said that he and his wife have no regrets about their decision.

“We have been here for four years, and I don’t think we could’ve hoped for anything better. There is no looking back from where I am at the moment.”