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Nearly a third of Southern District Health Board senior doctors and dentists plan to leave in the next five years, a senior doctors' survey has found.
Nationally, the figure was 24%.
The survey drew responses from 171 SDHB members of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists.
The doctors were asked three questions - whether they intended to leave DHB employment (11.5% at SDHB; 5.4% nationally); whether they intended to leave medicine entirely (a further 22% at SDHB; 16% nationally), and whether they intended to leave the country.
Released by the union yesterday, the report includes anonymous comment from two SDHB respondents.
One said working at SDHB was an ''absolute nightmare'', and another said management made the environment ''so toxic''.
Senior doctors' union principal analyst Charlotte Chambers said the study identified reasons why doctors were leaving and what might encourage them to stay.
''We know that many senior doctors are approaching traditional retirement years.
''This study finds many of those older doctors would be more inclined to stay on longer if their working conditions improved, including being able to work more flexible hours, being adequately staffed to cope with the work pressures and having a greater say on how clinical services are provided,'' Dr Chambers said.
Feelings of disillusionment, exhaustion and low morale were driving many senior doctors to consider leaving the public health system, the union said.
SDHB chief medical officer Nigel Millar said the survey results were concerning.
''Clearly it is a matter of concern and we do work with the union and specialist services to provide the best working environment within the available resources.
''This includes our investments in the Southern Future programme of work, to improve to experiences of our staff and build a more effective and collaborative internal culture within Southern DHB,'' Dr Millar said.
The board had a ''large and highly experienced'' senior doctor workforce.
''We will continue to focus on these issues, in particular that of training, to ensure that we can meet the needs locally when our senior doctors choose to retire,'' Dr Millar said in a statement.
The results come at a time when New Zealand
doctors are at risk of being poached by Britain's National Health Service as it looks to recruit overseas doctors in order to meet its staff targets.
About 2000 more GPs are needed and the head of NHS England has said the service is looking at countries such as New Zealand, Australia and the rest of the European Union.
The British Government hopes to recruit 5000 more GPs by 2020, but it is widely expected to miss this goal.
Efforts were being stepped up to encourage doctors to come to the UK, NHS head Simon Stevens told the Health Service Journal.
It was hard to tell the effect this would have on New Zealand, the executive director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists executive director Ian Powell said yesterday.
He said the NHS was a ''mess'', and New Zealand doctors were aware it was in a bad way.
However, ''we wouldn't need to lose a lot. Even a trickle would have a disproportionately severe impact'', he said.
''We do have a shortage of doctors here, too, and New Zealand doctors are very attractive overseas.''
- additional reporting by NZN