Jeremy Hunt will force demoralised doctors to stay and work in a ruined NHS

At Tory Conference, Hunt will threaten to fine doctors who move abroad


In a speech to Tory conference this afternoon, Jeremy Hunt will threaten to punish junior doctors who leave the UK too soon after completing their training.

Announcing a plan to make the NHS ‘self-sufficient’ by training more British doctors and reducing the numbers of non-British doctors, Hunt will warn that doctors who don’t work for the NHS for at least four years after graduation will face a fine.

This is intended to stem the flow of doctors from England to Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere. But Hunt fails to acknowledge the root cause of this exodus — that he has made NHS England a terrible place to work.

Doctors across the service report that morale is at an all-time, thanks to spending cuts, staff shortages and the imposed junior doctors contract.

Earlier this year, 94 per cent of the British Medical Association’s student members said the imposition of the contract had made them less enthusiastic about working for the NHS, while 82.4 per cent said it means they are less likely to pursue a career in NHS England.

In February Guardian survey of healthcare professionals found that four out of five health workers have considered leaving the NHS, the vast majority of them in the past year.

Coercing doctors to stay in the system that disrespects them is not the answer. It will further demoralise doctors and potentially drive some out of the service altogether.

As Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair commented:

“The government must tackle the root causes of this workforce crisis and the reasons why so many UK-trained doctors say they will choose to leave the NHS rather than forcing doctors to stay in a profession in which they can see no future.  Demotivated, burnt-out doctors in this situation will not be good for patients.”

Throughout his tenure as health secretary, Hunt’s approach to the NHS has been to strong-arm staff in service of the Conservatives’ own ideological agenda.

This will continue with his conference speech today, even as the crisis he has created threatens the function and integrity of the NHS.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.