Retention in the British National Health Service of medical graduates trained in Britain: cohort studies

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Abstract

Objective

To report the percentage of graduates from British medical schools who eventually practise medicine in the British NHS.

Design

Cohort studies using postal questionnaires, employment data, and capture-recapture analysis.

Setting

Great Britain.

Subjects

32 430 graduates from all British medical schools in nine graduation cohorts from 1974 to 2002, subdivided into home based medical students (those whose homes were in Great Britain when they entered medical school) and those from overseas (whose homes were outside Great Britain when they entered medical school).

Main outcome measures

Working in the NHS at seven census points from two to 27 years after qualification.

Results

Of home based doctors, 88% of men (6807 of 7754) and 88% of women (7909 of 8985) worked as doctors in the NHS two years after qualification. The corresponding values were 87% of men (7483 of 8646) and 86% of women (7364 of 8594) at five years; 86% (6803 of 7872) and 86% (5407 of 6321) at 10 years; 85% (5404 of 6331) and 84% (3206 of 3820) at 15 years; and 82% (2534 of 3089) and 81% (1132 of 1395) at 20 years. Attrition from the NHS had not increased in recent cohorts compared with older ones at similar times after graduation. Of overseas students, 76% (776 of 1020) were in the NHS at two years, 72% (700 of 972) at five years, 63% (448 of 717) at ten years, and 52% (128 of 248) at 20 years.

Conclusions

The majority of British medical graduates from British medical schools practise in the NHS in both the short and long term. Differences between men and women in this respect are negligible. A majority of doctors from overseas homes remain in Britain for their years as junior doctors, but eventually about half leave the NHS.

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