Risk preferences and GP migration

Emigration by doctors is of increasing concern given the high training costs and the shortage of doctors in the UK.  It is crucial to increase our understanding of emigration decisions.  This paper focused on the role of risk preferences.  Emigration is fundamentally a risky decision and evidence suggests that risk seeking individuals are more likely to migrate.  However, it is unclear whether this can be generalised to doctors.  It could be argued that there is less financial risk associated with emigration and some destination countries have lower rather than higher levels of risk associated with career and clinical care.  The aim of this paper was to compare risk preferences of GPs who qualified in the UK and emigrated to Australia with those who are currently practising in Scotland.  We used data from Australia's national longitudinal survey of doctors (MABEL) which included 275 GPs who qualified in the UK and data from a survey of 295 Scottish GPs.  Risk preferences were elicited for financial risks, career and professional risks and clinical risks on a scale from 1 to 5.  

Outcome and Translation

This research showed that UK trained GPs who migrated to Australia were more risk averse than GPs in Scotland.  This suggests that outward migration of GPs may be reduced by reducing risk and uncertainty within the UK NHS.

HERU researchers involved in this research project: Marjon van der Pol and Alastair Irvine

External collaborators: A. Scott (University of Melbourne), O. Bezannier (Université Paris-Est Créteil)


Pol, M. van der, Scott, A. and Irvine, A. (2019) 'The migration of UK trained GPs to Australia: does risk attitude matter?', Health Policy, 123(11), 1093-1099.


Pol, M. van der, Scott, A., Irvine, A. and Bezannier, O. (2018) 'Risk preferences and GP migration', Health Economists' Study Group (HESG) Winter 2018 Meeting, City Health Economics Centre, City, University of London, London, England, 10-12 January 2018.

Pol, M. van der, Scott, A., Irvine, A. and Bezannier, O. (2018) 'Risk preferences and GP migration', 12th European Conference on Health Economics (EuHEA), Maastricht, The Netherlands, 11-14 July 2018.