One of the most important individuals within international medical recruitment has suggested that NHS Scotland policy is fundamentally flawed.
Jim Godsal, interim managing director of Head Medical, suggested that the notion of the Scottish government forcing doctors trained in the nation to work in the NHS for a minimum period would be catastrophic.
SNP politician Richard Lyle floated with this idea recently, but the recruitment expert believes that it would ultimately backfire.
According to the plans of Lyle, Scottish-trained doctors would have to commit to serving at least five years in the publicly-funded health service.
The MSP for Uddingston and Belshill promoted this initiative during a meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s health committee.
Centrally motivating this policy is the fact that the Scottish doctors are currently free to work in overseas territories, with Australia, New Zealand and Canada are proving particularly popular for language reasons.
“I do not want to hamstring anyone or tie them down, but if a country gives you an opportunity to train to be something, you should at least give something back to that country,” Lyle told MSPs.
However, health service observers believe that the policy will in fact cause its own problems, ensuring that it is difficult for the NHS Scotland to retain skilled professionals.
Far from improving the GP gulf in Scotland, forcing doctors to work in the NHS could in fact worsen the already grave situation.
Jim Godsal, interim managing director of Head Medical, the UK’s leading international agency specialising in the recruitment of doctors, said such a move could be more damaging, particularly in the longer-term.
“Doctors have always looked to broaden their horizons. Since Head Medical started in 2008 we have helped hundreds of UK doctors move overseas and brought many of them, and others, back to the UK after they have gained additional experience elsewhere. Very few of the doctors we have helped have been newly qualified, most have already worked for a number of years here before seeking new challenges abroad. They may want to move for lifestyle reasons or are at a point in their career where they want to experience a different healthcare system and learn new things.”
Although estimates put the cost of training a doctor in the UK at more than £600,000 much of the expense is incurred while doctors are actively working in the health service.
Godsal explained how this figure is arrived at.
“The cost to train a doctor accounts for many years of training. It covers their medical school, their initial foundation year and time as a junior doctor which can be six or seven years before they reach consultant level. All that time they are working within the NHS. That figure to train a doctor could refer to ten or 12 years spent working in the NHS until they reach consultant level. That means the NHS gets pretty good mileage out of them in that period of time.”
In a competitive international environment, it is believed that Scotland could put itself at a significant disadvantage if it is to adopt such a coercive policy as suggested by Lyle.