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Dr Trevor Pickersgill, British Medical Association
"We do not have enough doctors being trained in this country"
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Tuesday, 3 April, 2001, 22:53 GMT 23:53 UK
Junior doctors shun general practice
General practice is waning in popularity
Recruitment problems in general practice are set to deepen as junior doctors shun primary care as a career, research suggests.

A survey by the British Medical Association of 1995 medical graduates found that only a third (32%) wanted to become GPs.

At present, 55% of fully trained doctors work in primary care.

The number of doctors surveyed who do want to become GPs has risen by 7% since the group was last quizzed in 1998 - but not by enough to meet demand.

The potential recruitment problem is further compounded by the fact that two-thirds of those who wanted to become GPs were women.

The UK is seriously under doctored

Dr John Chisholm, British Medical Association
This is because most (74%) planned to work part-time in the future.

Dr John Chisholm, chairman of the BMA's GP Committee, said: "The UK is seriously under doctored and for GPs and their patients the consequence is a consultation that lasts a mere eight minutes on average.

"We desperately need many more general practitioners in the workforce.

"The findings of the study show how difficult this will prove to be unless radical improvements to GPs' working conditions and pay are urgently made by the government."

Health Secretary Alan Milburn announced last month that newly-qualified family doctors are to receive a 5,000 "golden hello" as part of a drive to recruit more front-line staff to the NHS.

In addition, new GPs who opt to work for at least three years in a deprived area will be given an extra 5,000.

Consultant expansion

The study also throws doubt on whether the government will be able to deliver on its promise to increase the number of consultants working in the NHS.

It found that many doctors are facing serious delays before getting on the specialist training ladder.

Many junior doctors were critical of the way they are encouraged to leave clinical medicine for research work in order to progress to the specialist registrar grade (SpR).

About a third of the junior doctors said they found it difficult to obtain a national training number - the mechanism that enables junior doctors to follow a specialist registrar training programme.

Some of the doctors said there were no training places in their region while others complained about being forced to complete a research degree beforehand.

Many felt that spending two to three years in a research post would adversely affect their clinical skills.

Dr Trevor Pickersgill, chairman of the BMA's Junior Doctor Committee, said: "There is a clear and widely accepted need to increase the number of consultants.

"However, it can take up to seven or eight years, and sometimes longer, for juniors to move into higher specialist training.

"The problem needs to be tackled in a coherent way which is why we are so concerned about proposals to dilute national medical workforce planning.

"Research is vitally important to the NHS but it should be undertaken at the appropriate time in a doctor's career and with appropriate resources.

"Research posts should not be taken as a way of marking time."

'Denting enthusiasm'

The survey also found that long working hours, sleep deprivation, and a lack of hospital resources were seriously undermining junior doctors' motivation.

More than a quarter (28%) said they only had a lukewarm or weak desire to practice medicine.

Even among those most strongly motivated, the realities of medical practice are denting their enthusiasm.

The study found that only 68% of the respondents held a strong or very strong desire to practise medicine, compared to 85% at graduation.

Respondents also expressed frustration with government proposals for a new consultant contract, especially plans to ban private practice in the early years.

Many felt that having spent five years working 80-100 hour weeks, sacrificing family and social life, that the rewards were no longer adequate.

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13 Mar 01 | Health
Cash boost to recruit new GPs
28 Jan 01 | Health
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19 Dec 00 | Health
'Thousands more GPs needed'
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