Lack of academic medics could hold back NHS training plans

7 Jun 01
Labour's plans to increase dramatically the number of doctors in training could be severely hampered by a shortage of medical academics, the British Medical Association warned this week.

08 June 2001

The academics, who divide their time between clinical practice, teaching and research, have fallen from 11% of the NHS consultant workforce to 8% – fewer than 1,000 doctors. Yet the number of medical students is due to increase by 56% between 1998 and 2003.

The warning on medical teachers was a further blow to Labour's NHS programme. Last week, the BMA announced that 86% of GPs who voted in a ballot would be willing to resign if agreement over a new contract was not reached by next spring.

Consultants also vowed to consider resigning from the NHS and forming themselves into 'chambers', which would hire out their services to the health service.

The BMA's clinical academics' annual conference heard this week that 79 medical school professorships were vacant, while 145 senior lecturer and 177 lecturer posts remained unfilled. Pathology, psychiatry and surgery were the worst affected.

Pay is one of the problems behind the recruitment difficulties, as medical academics face a regular fight with their university employers to receive the same pay rise as colleagues who work exclusively for the NHS.

Professor Ian Gilmore, Registrar of the Royal College of Physicians, told the conference that clinical academics routinely work a 64-hour week.

Meanwhile, the GPs represent a serious challenge to the new government. They say they are unhappy that their workloads have increased and that they are subject to more regulations, while their pay has not reflected the changes.

The British Medical Association balloted all 36,000 family doctors in the UK on whether they would support taking radical action if negotiations dragged on too long and failed to address their concerns.

Hamish Meldrum, a GP negotiator, said: 'Morale among GPs has never been lower, workload and expectation never higher.

'There has been a persistent failure to provide the level of resources at practice level to enable family doctors to treat their patients properly or quickly. GPs want more time with their patients, time to provide a first-class service.'


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