Belfast Telegraph

Many new GPs working abroad

More than 250 of Northern Ireland's recently qualified GPs are working abroad, the Health Minister has revealed.

Jim Wells also told the Assembly many of the graduates were unlikely to return because they were enjoying better pay, conditions and career progression in countries like Australia and Canada.

He said: "We don't have an awful lot of evidence of many of these doctors coming back."

Mr Wells was speaking during Question Time at the Assembly.

He added: "Maybe it's the sun; maybe it's the social life; maybe it's the wonderful scenery but an awful lot of these young people are not returning; they are settling down in Australia and they are staying."

The revelation comes as the Royal College of GPs launched its first ever national recruitment video aimed at tackling stereotypes that general practice medicine is less stimulating and exciting than other specialisms.

The Assembly also heard that GPs in Northern Ireland also carry out more consultations than anywhere else in the UK or Ireland.

During 2012/13 there were 12.4 million consultations - the equivalent of 6.9 a year for every person - and a rise on the 10.2 million in 2008/09, it was claimed.

In England, GPs carry out an average of 3.4 consultations a year with each patient, while in the Republic of Ireland the figure is three.

The British Medical Association has repeatedly raised concerns about GPs's increasing workloads.

Mr Wells said: "I pay tribute to the GPs who are dealing with that very difficult situation.

"The reality is we will really only solve this problem when we encourage more young doctors to take on the role of being a general practitioner rather than going down the route of hospital route where you can become a consultant by the age of 34/35. That is the ultimate problem we are facing and the signs are quite worrying. Therefore it is essential that the workforce review takes action to address this difficulty."

Ulster Unionist MLA and former health minister, Michael McGimspey said the current situation was "unsustainable".

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