Junior doctors in England have just finished a five-day strike, with consultants now taking part in a 48-hour period of industrial action.

Disputes over pay and working conditions have led to numerous walkouts in recent months, and some doctors say they or their colleagues are considering moving to other countries.

So, how many doctors are actually leaving the UK to work elsewhere – and how does the pay compare?

FactCheck takes a look.

Are doctors leaving the UK to work in other countries?

A 2022 BMA survey of 4,553 junior doctors found that four in 10 doctors surveyed said they plan to leave the NHS as soon as they can find another job. A third of respondents said they planned to work as doctors in another country in the next 12 months.

Data from the latest General Medical Council workforce report published in 2022 shows that a total of 4,843 doctors left the UK to work abroad between May 2021 and May 2022.

But the number of doctors who moved abroad to practice medicine varied across groups.

Graduates from the European Economic Area (EEA) showed the largest proportion of doctors moving abroad from the UK, with over 12,00 – nearly two thirds of European doctors – heading overseas.

This was followed closely by nearly 2,200 (56 per cent) international medical graduates, who got their degree abroad. UK graduates were the least likely to move away, with just over 1,400 – around a quarter – leaving the country.

Australia and Canada are top destinations for those quitting the UK.

Authorities down under granted 1,963 temporary visas for specialist physicians, GPs and resident medical officers between 2020 and March 2023, according to data from the country’s government.

Meanwhile in Canada, 820 permanent resident applications were approved for specialist physicians and GPs over that time.

How does pay for doctors compare in other countries?

It’s not always easy to compare pay and benefits of doctors in different countries, especially for junior doctors, which is defined in England as having up to eight years’ experience working as a hospital doctor, or up to three years in general practice.

As Lucina Rolewicz, Researcher at Nuffield Trust, told FactCheck, “there is substantial variation in medical training between countries relating to education/training structures, competencies, and responsibilities, and this makes it challenging to compare salaries, as it’s not necessarily comparing like with like”.

She added: “Data on salaries from other countries often focuses on doctors overall or GPs/specialists, so it is hard to uncover how UK junior doctors’ wages compare with their overseas equivalents”.

In Australia, the base salary of junior doctors depends on the state they work in and their years of post-graduate experience.

Doctors in their second year typically earn between £43,000-£49,000 according to health job website Messly, which is £9,000-£15,000 more than doctors in their second year of work in England.

This recent job posting shows Australia recruiting consultants at a yearly rate of $357,930- $456,008 Australian dollars. This is equivalent to between £190,000 and £243,000 a year.

Some consultant job posts offer up to $8,000 (about £4,250) in addition to pay to cover international applicants’ flight and relocation costs.

Since 2003, consultants in England have been on a contract that now pays between £88,364 and £119,113 a year.

Meanwhile in Ireland, the new consultant pay scale starts at the equivalent of around £185,000, rising to £223,000.

In Canada, entry-level positions for doctors start at £31,000 per year, according to job recruitment website Talent, which is similar to salaries for those in their first and second year of training in England.