The General Medical Council (GMC) has published The state of medical education and practice: workforce report 2023. 

The report reveals that doctors who qualified outside the UK made up just under two thirds (63%) of the 23,838 new additions to the register in 2022. International medical graduates (IMGs) made up over half (52%) of new joiners, while doctors who graduated from within the European Economic Area were a smaller component, at 10%.

The report says that, even with current and upcoming increases to medical school places, the length of time it takes to train a doctor means the UK must remain an attractive option for doctors who qualify abroad for some time to come. It projects that, 14 years from now, 39% of UK doctors are likely to have qualified overseas.

The report also reveals that:

  • the number of doctors joining the UK medical register is rising. In 2022 there were 296,182 doctors with a licence to practice, an increase of 18% since 2018
  • since 2019, for every doctor who leaves, on average more than two join the workforce
  • while the number of doctors leaving the profession increased last year, from 9,825 in 2021 to 11,319 in 2022, the proportion of the workforce leaving (4%) is still only returning to pre-pandemic levels. However, the GMC is aware of increasing numbers of doctors taking hard steps towards leaving UK practice.

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Charlie Massey, Chief Executive, said:

‘Workforce thinking needs to keep pace with these changes. The ability to provide good patient care, now and for the foreseeable future, depends on the ability to respond quickly to changing career pathways, and to think clearly about making the most of the resources available.’

In the last year, the numbers of SAS and LE doctors, who are not on the traditional training pathway, have also increased dramatically – at four times the rate of the rest of the workforce. Between them, SAS and LE doctors now make up almost a quarter (24%) of licensed UK practitioners.

‘Patients benefit hugely from their knowledge and experience, and their flexibility is vital,’ Mr Massey added.

‘Too often these doctors are treated as a single homogenous group, which does not help our health services get the most out of their skills. More needs to be done to ensure these professionals are recognised for their skills, feel valued and are supported to progress their careers.’

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