Four in 10 junior doctors are actively planning to quit the NHS as soon as they can find another job, according to a survey by the British Medical Association.
The survey, released as part of the BMA chair of council Prof Philip Banfield’s new year message, found poor pay and working conditions were among the main reasons for junior doctors wanting to leave.
A third of those who want to quit the NHS plan to work abroad in the next 12 months, with Australia being the top choice of destination.
Banfield warned that the NHS “will simply not be able to cope” if there was such an exodus of junior doctors next year.
His message comes before junior doctors in England are balloted for industrial action on 9 January. They have faced some of the steepest cuts to their pay of any public sector worker over the past 15 years, falling by more than a quarter in real terms since 2008-09.
Banfield added: “The situation is severe. A third of junior doctors are planning to work in another country. Four in 10 say that as soon as they can find another job, they will leave the NHS. The health service will simply not be able to cope.
“For decades the NHS was the envy of the world. But without our doctors’ expertise, the country will get sicker. We will not accept impoverished healthcare for our nation, or acquiesce to those looking to slash pay and drive down living standards for NHS staff. In 2023 we will stand together with patients, an organised workforce ready to act.”
The NHS faces months of disruption early next year with the public services union Unison and the Royal College of Nursing ramping up their campaign of strikes in protest against the government’s pay award and refusal to improve it.
The BMA survey of junior doctors in England, carried out between November and December, received 4,553 responses.
Dr Vivek Trivedi, the co-chair of the BMA junior doctors committee, said the survey results were “hugely concerning”.
“If our government doesn’t act now, it doesn’t take a genius to see where this will lead: an exodus of junior doctors to foreign countries, with the ones who stay in the NHS facing an ever-increasing workload – until they feel they have no option but to leave too or get burnt-out.
“If the government wants ‘move to Australia’ to stay off the new year resolution lists of junior doctors this year, it is going to have to start by reversing the 26% real-terms pay cut they have endured since 2008 – or at the very least start speaking with us and stop ignoring our repeated calls to address our pay.”
Faced with a growing cost of living crisis, a recent survey by the BMA found that junior doctors were cutting back on buying food and heating their homes to help make ends meet.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “The health and social care secretary has been clear that supporting and retaining the NHS workforce is one of his key priorities, and that includes our hardworking junior doctors.
“Our multiyear pay deal with the British Medical Association is increasing junior doctors’ pay by a cumulative 8.2% by 2023. We have also invested an additional £90m to provide the most experienced junior doctors with higher pay, increased allowances for those working the most frequently at weekends, and increased rates of pay for night shifts.
“There are record numbers of staff working in the NHS, and we are committed to publishing a comprehensive workforce strategy next year.”