Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

Eight in ten trainee doctors who are considering leaving Ireland state this is due to poor working conditions, training opportunities and work-life balance

25 September 2017
Ireland must do more to retain a motivated medical workforce, according to RCSI study
More than 80% of trainee doctors have said that working conditions, training opportunities, and work-life balance are factors that would influence their decision to leave Ireland, according to new RCSI (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland) research published today in the Human Resources for Health journal. 

Almost one fifth of the 523 doctors who responded to a survey had already left Ireland between 2014 and 2016 to practice medicine abroad. More than a fifth (22%) of those still here said that they would definitely or probably leave, 22% were undecided and only 18% were definitely staying. 

72% of the doctors, who were undertaking or had recently completed postgraduate training in Ireland, believed that they needed to spend time training abroad to compete for consultant posts in Ireland. However, more than 80% also reckoned that working conditions and training opportunities were better abroad. The research results published today show that two factors stand out as the reasons why our doctors continue to leave, namely poor quality training and family and personal reasons, with the latter particularly important for older doctors and those with families. 

According to Professor Ruairi Brugha, who led the study: “The chronic haemorrhage of doctors from Ireland will continue as long as we undervalue them. Unless sufficient resources are invested in providing specialist training to the doctors after they have graduated medical school, employing them in adequately staffed hospitals with comparable training and working conditions to what are on offer in other countries, we will continue to lose those who are the life blood of our health system.” 

“In-depth interviews were also conducted with 50 doctors which threw further light on some of the findings. Doctors talked about the stresses they experienced in having to make important decisions about patients, while not having sufficient access to consultants. They also talked of the lack of structured training, where the demands of delivering a service to patients in under-staffed hospitals crowded out their training needs. Taken together, the survey and the interviews show that insufficient frontline staff in our hospitals, reported by over 80% as a reason for leaving Ireland, was impacting on these doctors’ need for supervised training.” concluded Professor Brugha. 

A report published earlier this year by the RCSI’s Health Workforce Research Group stated that Ireland now produces sufficient medical graduates to meet its needs, however our inability to retain our own doctors means that we have to recruit internationally. In 2015, two thirds of those taking up medical registration in Ireland for the first time had graduated outside Ireland, with a doubling of the numbers coming from outside the European Union. Most of these were being employed to fill non-training posts, the numbers of which had risen at a four times greater rate than training posts.
The report is available here.