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UK Doctors Working Abroad: What You Need to Know



There are a lot of UK doctors working abroad. If you are thinking about joining them and moving to another country, you might have many questions that should not be considered lightly.

Depending on the country of destination, more or less extensive administrative procedures must be carried out to be able to practice. But also in order not to lose one’s rights to social protection.

You will find some answers and tips in this article.

Where Can UK Doctors Work Abroad?

Europe Used to Be an Easy Option for an Expat Doctor From the United Kingdom

The first question to ask yourself is the recognition of your diplomas and skills in the country where you wish to move. Each one has its own recruitment and training processes for doctors.

A British doctor can easily expatriate in the member countries of the European Union. For example in:

  • Italy
  • Netherlands
  • Germany.

This ease is due to the system of automatic recognition of diplomas. But note, that moving to any country in the European Union was easier before the Brexit.

Now, you will need to apply for visas as if you were moving to any other part of the world.

The Procedures for a Doctor to Expat Are Not the Same Everywhere

It is advisable to contact the competent authority in the country of expatriation to find out the procedure to follow.

They will inform you about all the documents you need to provide (CV, proof of nationality, etc.).

Take in mind they may vary and be more or less numerous depending on the country. You should not neglect the time that these procedures may take.

Do not wait until the last moment to take care of them.

Some documents or copies of documents take a long time to obtain, and the processing time for applications in the different countries of expatriation also varies greatly.

It is therefore necessary to anticipate your departure once you have made your decision of joining the community of UK doctors working abroad.

Certain restrictions may also apply depending on the country, such as:

  • Prohibition to work in the public service
  • Additional procedures or exams might be imposed, for example, to validate one’s knowledge and skills.

It is important to comply with these requirements in order to succeed in your expatriation as a British physician.

UK Doctors Working Abroad: Important Facts

Different Regulations for an Expat Doctor in Different Countries

In the rest of the world, any expatriation project of a British physician must be studied on a case-by-case basis. The recognition of diplomas and skills of foreign doctors is very uncertain.

In Latin America, for example, it is possible to work as an expat doctor after completing certain procedures.

However, a foreign doctor might only be able to set up practice as a private doctor after a year of “social service” to populations that are often isolated.

Other examples: the United States and Hong Kong do not recognize foreign diplomas. It’s required to retake them to practice.

So, the country of expatriation is not a choice that can be made at random.

The best way to find out about the procedure to follow and the possible restrictions imposed is to contact the embassy. Its personnel will be able to answer all your questions.

Anticipating the Consequences of Becoming a Doctor Expat

Important Material Contingencies for UK Doctors Working Abroad

Obtaining the right to practice is fundamental. But it is not the only thing to worry about.

As with any expatriation, many factors require a good organization. For example:

  • Obtaining a visa
  • Finding a house
  • Schooling the children.

The question of language should not be neglected either. It can be a serious obstacle to any doctor expat.

Setting up a clinic, building up a patient base, and practising the profession, in general, would be more difficult if you don’t fully speak and understand the local language.

Even in a country where the language is well known, the expat may encounter difficulties.

It’s normal to need a period of adaptation to master the professional aspects of the language. And also the specific vocabulary of the local health system and its functioning.

Working in the UK During or After Being an Expat Doctor

The expatriation should not lead to neglecting the questions that will arise upon his return to the UK. Whether temporary or permanent.

In practice, a doctor will never lose the benefit of his British diplomas. And will be able to quickly and simply re-register to practice upon his resettlement.

However, if he wants to be able to prescribe during his temporary stays in the United Kingdom, it’s needed to keep affiliated to the General Medical Council during the period of the expatriation.

Social Security for British Doctors Moving Abroad

What Are the Health Insurance Rights of UK Doctors Working Abroad?

The question of social protection is also crucial. Depending on the expatriation destination, the doctor will no longer contribute to the British retirement system.

He or she risks losing the benefits of these years of work abroad for his or her future retirement.

So, the British doctors working abroad need to find out about this. And then, subscribe to the Social Security retirement insurance.

During the expatriation, the doctor might lose the affiliation to the Social Security health insurance.

They must find out about their rights and obligations concerning affiliation with the local medical system.

While the procedures are simplified when the expatriation takes place in Europe, this is not the case elsewhere in the world.

And even when there is a mandatory health insurance system in the destination country, the coverage offered is not always satisfactory. The guarantees and reimbursements might be too low.

In any case, local insurance systems do not fully meet the needs of expatriates. These systems won’t cover you during your temporary stays in the UK, or in case of repatriation.

This is why it is very important to also subscribe to international insurance. Even if the affiliation to the local health insurance plan is mandatory.

Which International Health Insurance Should I Choose as an Expat Doctor?

After knowing where can UK doctors work abroad, it’s useful to also know which insurance is the best.

Using an online comparator will help you to quickly and easily find the most suitable coverage for each situation.

There are two possible international health insurance solutions for British doctors moving abroad.

The first is to keep affiliated with Social Security in your home country. This entity accepts all applications without a medical questionnaire at the time of registration.

This is an interesting point for people suffering from pre-existing medical conditions.

However, this option offers often insufficient reimbursements abroad.

It is based on the same price scale as the price of care in the UK. And the guarantees are limited, not covering repatriation, for example.

To benefit from satisfactory coverage, it is almost always necessary to take out a complimentary insurance policy. This increases the cost of the contribution.

The other solution is to take out one of the many “1st euro” (or 1st dollar) contracts marketed by British companies specializing in international health insurance.

These policies are very popular among expats, because:

  • They combine flexibility and good value for money
  • The offers cover at least the essential guarantees such as routine care, hospitalization, and repatriation
  • Reimbursements are calculated according to the real costs of care, with no unpleasant surprises
  • It is also possible, according to one’s budget and needs, to subscribe to a more protective contract, offering guarantees well beyond the health sector
  • These contracts follow the insured and his beneficiaries everywhere in the world, including during his stays in the UK.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do UK Doctors Working Abroad Preserve Their Social Security Rights?

Depending on the country of destination, more or less extensive administrative procedures must be carried out to preserve one’s rights to social protection.

How Can a British Expatriate Doctor Obtain the Right to Practice in a European Union Country?

Expatriate doctors can have their diploma recognized if the speciality is covered by Annex V of Directive 2005/36/EU.

How to Obtain the Right to Practice in a Country Outside the European Union for British Doctors Working Abroad?

If an expatriate doctor wishes to practice his profession in a country outside the European Union, he should contact the embassy of the country in question. It’s the best way to find out more about the steps to be taken to obtain a license to practice.

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This is also interesting:

What countries should I move to? The best countries to move to are not the same for everyone! Finding the ideal destination depends first of all on what is expected on a personal level.

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