Working abroad as a GP
Over the next few years, the demand for UK trained GPs is set to increase dramatically. Working abroad can be a fantastic experience but there are also many things to consider. This article will explore what you need to think about when planning to work abroad as a GP.
It is really important to sort out the legal side of things well in advance; this includes visas, tax, NI contributions, conditions of employment, indemnity cover. This will vary from country to country. Most countries will require you to have a medical before you go and you may also need certain immunisations too.
For many people, part of the attraction of working abroad is saving money by not having to pay any tax. However, you might wish to pay national insurance contributions voluntarily as otherwise your access to certain benefits and allowances when returning to the UK can be affected, for example, your state pension.
Your conditions of employment might be quite different to what you are used to so it is important to read these thoroughly before signing. You should also check whether your indemnity provider will cover you whilst working abroad.
If you are planning on driving abroad, depending on the country, you might need to apply for an international driving permit.
Medical System & Qualifications
In order to work abroad, you will need to check if your qualifications will be recognised by the relevant organisations and whether you will be able to practise. For example, in Australia, you are required to submit an application form to the RACGP and also apply for primary source verification to the Australian Medical Council.
Another consideration is the difference between the way the NHS works and the public health systems in other countries. Some countries, like New Zealand, charge for consultations. There may be fewer home visits and a restricted list of drugs that can be prescribed. You will need to familiarise yourself with the new system that you will be working under.
Doctors with MRCGP and CCT from the UK can practise in Australia, New Zealand, and most countries in the Middle East without any further exams or qualifications, although you will need to register with the local medical council. To work in Canada, you will need to sit the MCEE examination with further examinations if you stay beyond one year.
Social & Cultural Implications
Aside from all the legal and practical matters, there are social and cultural implications too. If you are going with a family how will the move affect them? What are the differences in culture, climate, housing and education? How will you keep in touch with family and friends back home?
Even if you are going to an English-speaking country, you should expect cultural differences, whether this is more casual dress or subtle differences in language and food. The climate might be part of the attraction but make sure you do your homework! You might assume a country is hot but then find yourself in a city that has a cool sea breeze throughout the year.
Housing can differ a lot from what you are used to both in terms of housing stock, price and how the rental market operates. A lot of research is required to identify specific areas where you might settle.
If you have children, you will need to consider their education, both the school systems on offer whilst you are abroad and how they will fit back in to the UK school system when you return. For older children you may also need to consider what exams they should take or be prepared for.
Average salaries vary from country to country, in New Zealand, you can expect approximately £90,000 p.a. however in Australia, it can be £150,000 plus. In Qatar, a 40 hour contract will command a salary of £100,000 – £120,000 plus. In Canada, you can expect to earn over £100,000 per year depending on location and any additional skills you have. Pay in Abu Dhabi and Dubai tends to be lower than other Middle Eastern countries. In addition to pay, some companies will offer benefits such as free accommodation, school fees and relocation costs.
Working abroad can provide the opportunity to have a healthier, more active lifestyle (think sun and surf in Australia or exploring New Zealand’s incredible landscape) and the chance to gain different skills and experience to ultimately improve your practice as a GP.
We will be posting more detailed articles about individual countries with profiles of doctors who are working or have worked abroad soon.
Have you worked abroad? Share your tips in the comments below.
Hannah Dryden is the site editor of GPJobs.org. Dr Mahibur Rahman is a portfolio GP and the medical director of Emedica. He is the Author of “GP Jobs – A Guide to Career Options in General Practice”. He will be teaching at the Life after CCT: GP Survival Skills course which includes a session on working abroad, which will include popular countries for UK qualified GPs, pay and terms, additional examinations and recognition of MRCGP / CCT.
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