I had the pleasure of spending the festive period in the Land of the Long White Cloud, visiting my sister, a GP based near Napier on the North Island. While we enjoyed the best of the beach life, the Art Deco architecture and the temptation of nearby vineyards it would be all too easy to believe that our daily grind could be easier in New Zealand.
The country enjoys a healthy image – the marketing pictures show the All Blacks, expansive green fields, breathtaking mountains and a plethora of extreme sports. The Antipodean outpost does fare marginally better than the UK; infant mortality is on a par at 4.8 deaths per 1,000 live births and life expectancy at birth is 80.2 years, six-months longer than the UK.
Of course the reality of working there is a little different. Doctors face similar problems in their healthcare system as the rest of us in developed countries. The omnipresent funding cuts, a 40% increase in demand from an ageing population, and the estimated retirement of 35% of its existing workforce at the same time as the needs of its baby boom generation increase.
Unfortunately governing body the Medical Council of New Zealand has more immediate problems. The organisation became homeless in December when its head office had to be evacuated. Engineers deemed the building unstable six months after the Wellington earthquake in 2013.
The grass is rarely greener.