The current economic conditions in the UK mean that many qualified professionals are leaving the UK in search of a better life overseas. As a nation the UK needs a steady supply of doctors, engineers, pharmacists and academics and increasingly we are looking overseas to find well-qualified people to work in our hospitals and research labs. The problem is that other countries are competing for the same brain power, so how do we make the UK attractive?
Many doctors and scientists who were born and educated overseas are well aware of what it is like to live in the UK, but the government undertakes a program of advertising and public relations to raise awareness levels. This is often done through Universities, and bodies such as the British Council give information regarding postgraduate studies in the UK or research and further training opportunities. The idea is that once a foreign professional comes here to complete their studies, they see how good their lifestyle could be and then stays.
Fast-track Medical Visas
Almost 40% of doctors working in the NHS were born overseas, and the government are currently looking at ways in which to make the visa application process easier for doctors or dentists coming to complete their training or work in the NHS. The system of work permits, visas and the ability to bring a family into the UK is complex, and it appears that the system is putting off many highly skilled medical professionals.
The government system enabling people to apply for visas and come to the UK is based on points and there are different tiers of eligibility. The system is designed to make it easier for high value migrants to settle in the UK. To qualify for the highest points and Tier 1 status, migrants need to show they have exceptional talents, entrepreneur skills or are doing a job that cannot be done by a British worker. Having a position secured in a UK company and sponsorship from an employer can also speed up the process considerably.
The old saying is that the grass is always greener on the other side, and despite the fact that most expats are more than happy with the move abroad, a small percentage every year will return to the UK. Also, there are many people who are only abroad temporarily and whose intention always was to return after a couple of years. There are many good reasons for returning to the UK, although the exact factors will be different in every case.
One of the main reasons for returning to the UK permanently is because of relatives. Sometimes it is simply homesickness, with expats finding it difficult to adjust to life overseas and not seeing relatives on a regular basis. Many families who move abroad discover that as their own parents age and develop health problems that they have no alternative but to sell up and move back to be closer in order to help out with day to day care.
European countries which have historically attracted large numbers of expats are some of those which have been hit hardest by the economic downturn. Portgual, Greece and Spain are going through a period of huge uncertainty, rising taxes and plummeting property prices, and many expats have taken the view that they would far rather be back in the UK where things are altogether more stable, even if this means taking a loss on their foreign property and investments.
Most of us make the move abroad when we are fit and healthy, and we don’t pay much attention to healthcare when deciding where to settle. Although the healthcare systems in countries like Spain and France is as good as here in the UK, being diagnosed with a serious condition can throw life into sharp focus and makes many expats reconsider their decision to live far from friends and family. Language barriers may mean also that expats prefer to return to their UK roots and have their treatment here.
Gone are the days when the pound sterling was worth as much as 1.50 euros. Now we are lucky to get 1.2 euros to the pound, and for retired expats who are reliant on a pension paid in sterling, this is affecting their cost of living to the extent where they are forced to sell up and come home.