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Monday, 4 June, 2001, 13:37 GMT 14:37 UK
Medical schools' staff warning
Doctor with paperwork
A shortage of teaching staff means lecture posts are unfilled
Election promises to increase the number of doctors could be jeopardised because there are not enough people to train them, warn doctors.

The British Medical Association's annual conference of medical academics has heard that proposed new schools could struggle to recruit senior staff.

Lecturers in pathology, psychiatry and surgery are the hardest to find, they say.

Increasing the numbers of doctors in the NHS is a key pledge in health manifestos from all the main parties.

The number of places at medical school is to rise by more than half between 1998 and 2003 in an attempt to make this happen, with two new medical schools opening around the countries.

However, a recent survey found 15% of all professor grade posts unfilled and hundreds of vacancies in medical schools for senior lecturers.

One of those trying to arrange teaching for the doctors of the future, Professor Janet Finch, Vice Chancellor of Keele University told the conference : "The ability to recruit enough clinical academics to teach the new medical students is my biggest worry."

The latest figures suggest that 145 senior lecturer and 177 lecturer posts are currently unfilled.

One in 10 of all consultants in the health service also has a teaching role, but doctors' organisations say it is becoming harder to recruit to these jobs.

Doctors ready to quit NHS

This is just the latest warning note sounded by doctors about the pace of reform in the NHS during the course of this election campaign.

Last Friday, a BMA ballot found that more than half of family doctors would be prepared to quit the NHS if contract negotiations were not satisfactorily concluded by next April.

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

Two-thirds of GPs responded to the ballot, of which 86% said they would be prepared to resign from the NHS.

Doctor examining a child
Doctors' say their workload is increasing
That indicates that overall, 56% of family doctors are prepared to leave the NHS.

Last month, GPs around the country staged industrial action, including in some cases closing their surgeries, in protest at their heavy workload.

Those taking part in the National Doctor Day cancelled all routine appointments at their surgeries and took only emergency calls as they closed for the day.

The protest was organised by Doctor magazine to highlight GPs' demands for thousands of new recruits, longer consultation time and shorter hours.

The average GP now has just eight minutes to see each patient and doctors say they cannot deliver the necessary standards of care.

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See also:

30 Apr 01 | Health
A day in the life of a GP
30 Apr 01 | Health
Health chief slams GPs' protest
28 Apr 01 | Health
GPs gear up for day of action
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