Egyptian doctors check a patient s X-ray at the infectious diseases unit of the Imbaba Hospital in Cairo, during the novel coronavirus pandemic crisis. (AFP)
The GMC, a UK public body responsible for maintaining the official register of medical practitioners within the kingdom, said that Indian, Pakistani, Nigerian and Sudanese doctors were the other four nationalities in the top five who joined the kingdom's medical system that year.
The GMC report also found that the number of Egyptian – as well as Chinese and Sudanese - doctors who joined the UK's medical system tripled between 2017 and 2021.
It explained that the number of Egyptian doctors who joined the UK medical workforce was 435 in 2017 and increased to 765 in 2018. But, these numbers, it added, increased by almost 200 percent in the following three years on average, registering 1,301 in 2019, 1,220 in 2020, and 1,312 in 2021.
More IMGs - less UK and European
The GMC report analysed statistics related to the UK medical workforce and discussed various challenges that faced the kingdom's medical system in 2022.
It found that the number of international medical graduates (IMGs) who joined the UK workforce in 2021 exceeded the numbers of graduates from UK and European Economic Area (EEA) who joined the kingdom's workforce.
These increasing numbers of IMGs came primarily from doctors from South Asia, the Middle East and Africa, the report found.
Doctors from these three regions comprised 84 percent of all 'IMG joiners' in 2021 at 8,900 doctors, a number which actually exceeded the number of 8,200 UK graduates who joined the country's workforce in the same year, the report added.
According to the GMC report, the 'joiner doctor' category includes doctors who obtained a license to practice medicine in the year before applying for a job in the UK medical system.
The single fastest route to becoming a 'joiner doctor' is through enrollment in the UK's medical graduate programmes, the GMC report found.
Egyptian doctors: Challenges and solutions
In recent decades, Egyptian doctors have faced increasing financial difficulties due to low pay as well as an increasing workload amid population growth.
According to a March 2019 study released by the ministries of health and higher education, the numbers of doctors who held a license to practice medicine in Egypt were estimated at 212,000 in 2018, with 82,000 of them – or 38 percent of the total - working in hospitals, both public and private.
The study also found there was an average of 8.6 doctors for every 10,000 citizen - or one doctor for every 1,162 citizen, when the global average was 23 doctors for every 10,000 citizen – or one doctor for every 434.
The Egyptian Medical Syndicate, which represents the country's doctors, said in a report in April of this year that the doctor-to-citizen ratio improved to 9.2 doctors for every 10,000 citizen by March 2022 but remained far short of the global average.
The syndicate also said that 11,536 doctors resigned from the Egyptian public health sector from 2019 through March 2022.
Though these numbers do not represent more than five percent of the total of practicing physicians in the country, still, they have pushed many in the public to call on the government to improve the work conditions and salaries for doctors in order to stop any "doctors exodus" - real or not - and prevent any acute shortages that could impact the health system adversely.
The government has responded to these public calls by increasing the number of medicine faculties in the last few years in order to graduate more physicians.
It has also increased spending on the health sector to EGP 128 billion in the budget for the FY 2022/23 up from EGP 108 billion in 2021/2022 – an 18.5 percent increase.
In 2021, the government, as per President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi's directives, raised salaries and allowances for doctors and nurses in the public health sector by 75 percent.
Last August, President El-Sisi also instructed the government to offer financial incentive package for medical staff to improve their work conditions and raise their incomes.