Just one-in-three foreign doctors plan to remain in Ireland

International recruitment is not an effective long-term strategy for addressing a doctor shortage, with only one-third of foreign doctors planning to remain in Ireland, it has emerged.

Two studies from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and Trinity College Dublin found that foreign trained doctors experience slower career progression than doctors trained in Ireland, and half plan to move to a new country.

A survey of 366 foreign doctors registered to practice medicine in Ireland, funded by the Health Research Board and enabled by the Medical Council, showed that just one in three were planning to stay in Ireland.

Another study by the RCSI health workforce research group, in collaboration with a senior researcher from Dublin City University, found that the longer Irish-trained doctors spend abroad, the less likely they are to return to Ireland.

A survey of 388 Irish-trained health professionals working abroad — 307 doctors and 81 nurses and midwives, most of who had left Ireland between 2008 and 2014 — showed most of the physicians planning to remain abroad had risen from 10% to 34% over the period.

Head of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health Medicine, Ruairí Brugha, said there was a consistent pattern of findings from such studies.

“The same problems in how we manage our medical workforce, whether it is the doctors we train or those we recruit from overseas are leading to large numbers leaving for more attractive jobs and increasingly to make their long-term careers abroad, “ said Prof Brugha.

“Two years ago, the Department of Health published the ‘Strategic Review of Medical Training and Career Structures’ that included 25 recommendations which, if implemented, will address many of these doctors’ concerns, especially if we can tackle the under-staffing of our hospitals.”

The studies are published the current issue of BioMed Central’s journal, Human Resources for Health, which focuses on the World Health Organisation’s Global Code on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel.

Prof Brugha said the central tenet of the global code was that each country should train and retain the health professionals it needs.

“This applies just as much to a wealthy country like Ireland, which is now training the numbers of doctors it needs but has been losing them in increasing numbers, as it does to poorer countries, from which we have recruited many of the doctors that staff our hospitals.”


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