Eirion Slade’s protest song, performed outside Downing Street Monday last week and which contains the words ‘Could you save a life if you’d been up all night?’, gets to the heart of the controversy over the proposed new NHS jobs contract for junior doctors in the UK. The song expresses the views of many disillusioned NHS workers that it is not just about the money, but is about the conditions and the treatment at their jobs. The song cynically concludes that the aim of the new contracts is to cause the NHS to fail so they can put it up for sale and push through private health care.
If you’re a doctor and this and the many other issues facing the NHS seem too much to bear, there are other job options. The Australian health care system with its unique mix of private and state funded healthcare, offers a refreshing alternative.
For a comparison, consider the way primary health care works in Australia. The government pays for everyone to visit the GP when the need arises – no one is excluded and the cost of all levels of treatment from a basic consult to minor surgery and care plans are all covered by the government’s healthcare system, Medicare. It’s free and open to all!
Many Australians, however, choose to pay an extra supplement, or out of pocket costs to visit their GP. Generally this is taken out by those who can most afford it, and they do it because they want choice – choice of which GP they will see, for how long, at what time etc.
This mix of private and state funded primary care works well for all parties in Australia. Patients are happy because they have access to healthcare regardless of their ability to pay. The government is happy because it doesn’t bear the full financial burden alone. And the GP’s? Well, they are deliriously happy!
The GP’s we have recruited to Australia earn exceptionally well, whether they charge privately or bill Medicare, but this is not at the expense of having a life. The GPs choose how many hours a week to work, whether to see 4, 5 or 6 patients an hour. They don’t work all evening doing the paperwork. Instead they get a good work life balance – going to the beach, climbing mountains, going skiing, eating out, traveling, reading, entertain friends and family and the list goes on.
The GPs we work with in Australia often tell us that they are very happy they made the move, they lenjoy their work and have great quality of life, and this makes them very happy!
If you find yourself singing along to Jesse J’s tune, ‘could you save a life if you’d been up all night’, in protest with the junior doctors about the proposed new NHS jobs contract, then perhaps you need to talk to us about a better life as a GP in Australia.
If you are a qualified GP, a GP trainee considering your future job options, or even a junior doctor planning your career, we would love to hear from you.
UK Consultant – Monique Giron