Patrick Cockburn – What’s Driving the UK’s Shortage of Medical Doctors?

This is how many of developed nations are plundering the poorer countries

Patrick Cockburn is the author of War in the Age of Trump (Verso)

Cross-posted from Counterpunch

Photograph Source: DFID – UK Department for International Development – CC BY 2.0

At the beginning of the first lockdown two years ago a friend told me about a relative of his who was a nurse in a London hospital who had caught Covid-19. She said that her manager had told her “to go home and tell nobody about it”.

His response to bad news was to hide it, which is in keeping with secretive traditions of the NHS, as it is with all large institutions protecting their own interests. In the case of the NHS, the secrecy may be less obvious because a sympathetic media has been giving wall-to-wall coverage to its heroic efforts to treat victims of the pandemic.

Reporting today focuses largely on the shortage of doctors and nurses, their numbers depleted by Covid-19. Much publicity is given to short-term fixes such as sending in the army and re-employing retired medical staff.



  1. The UK government is adhering to a paradigm that has been inapplicable, and thus inherently false, since 1971. Since then, the UK has operated a sovereign fiat monetary system, which means that the government, the sole issuer of the national currency, can never be short of money and can never go bankrupt, unless, for ridiculous reasons, it chooses to do so.

    Therefore, since there are no financial constraints on whether the government can pay for the training of doctors and other medical personnel, perhaps there is a non-financial reason it has chosen not to do so, such as belief in a false narrative. If belief in a false economic narrative is not the reason, then the reasons appear to be rather darkly deliberate. A few alternatives suggest themselves.

  2. This was a question discussed in relation to the USA by David G Green “Challenge to the NHS”-a study of competition in American health care and the lessons for Britain published by the IEA in 1986!
    The answer is monopolistic control of supply by the medical profession itself.
    Like the farmer at a time of drought the best strategy to boost prices is to withhold supply.
    Uk doctors are amongst the best paid in the world once private earnings are taken into account. As now these earnings are boosted when there are shortages in the NHS.

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