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Last Updated: Saturday, 6 March, 2004, 00:09 GMT
'Dumbed down' consultants warning
It takes years to train a doctor
Government plans to overhaul medical training could put patients at risk, according to doctors.

The Department of Health is working on plans to streamline junior doctors' training. It could see some becoming consultants more quickly in future.

But the British Medical Association and medical royal colleges have accused the government of "dumbing down" training.

They have warned that it could reduce the quality of NHS doctors, something the Department of Health denies.

Years of training

At present, junior doctors take at least seven years to become a consultant after leaving medical school. Many take much longer.

They have to work their way up through a variety of training grades and pass royal college exams before they can become a consultant surgeon, for instance.

There is absolutely no question of dumbing down training
Department of Health
The Department of Health wants to reduce the length of time it takes junior doctors to become a consultant.

Officials believe some doctors spend years specialising and learning skills they don't necessarily need.

A document published last year said the "new training systems will produce a new type of consultant who will not necessarily have been required to undergo 'deep specialisation' now found in a number of programmes".

However, the BMA says the plans pose a danger to patients.

"There is an increasing fear that medical training is being dumbed down," said Simon Eccles, chairman of its junior doctors committee.

"The government should be working to ensure that we continue to produce doctors capable of delivering the highest possible standards of patient care.

"Instead, it seems intent on creating a production line turning out inadequately trained doctors and calling them consultants in order to meet its targets.

"While we agree that training needs to be streamlined, some of the thinking behind these plans is potentially dangerous to patients."

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges backed that view.

"If the quality of consultants is sacrificed, it is patients who will suffer," said Roger Currie, chairman of its trainees committee.

"Why should they be treated by doctors with less training?"

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health dismissed the claims.

"There is absolutely no question of dumbing down training," she said.

"This will create doctors who are fit for purpose. For example, not all doctors need to know how to perform paediatric cardiac transplants.

"What we need is doctors who are competent to deal with what the service needs."

The BBC's Sophie Hutchinson
"Doctors leaders are very concerned"

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19 Jun 02  |  Health

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