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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 June 2006, 08:05 GMT 09:05 UK
Junior doctors brain drain fear
Competition for posts is intense
Thousands of doctors could be forced to leave the country because of lack of opportunity in the NHS, the British Medical Association is warning.

The association says around 21,000 junior doctors are competing for 9,500 training posts in England in 2007.

This is due to the phasing out of senior house officer posts next year following a revamp of medical training.

Ministers dismissed the BMA claims, and said the changes would solve shortages in specialist areas.

Doctors are simply going to leave the NHS
Dr Jo Hilborne, British Medical Association

Until last year junior doctors went through three stages of training - pre-registration house officer, senior house officer and finally specialist registrar.

Under the government's 'Modernising Medical Careers' reforms there are now just two training phases - a two-year foundation programme followed by a specialist training programme.

The aim is to speed up the training of doctors. Under the new system it would be possible to achieve a consultant post after 11 years, rather than 14 years.

However, the BMA is concerned that next year doctors in senior house officer posts will have to compete for places on specialist training programmes with the first batch of graduates from the new foundation programme, and international medical graduates.

It warns the 11,500 who do not secure specialist training posts will have to settle for an unspecified number of short-term training posts with no guarantee of on-going training, or service grade posts which would provide no opportunity to progress their careers.

A BMA survey last year indicated that most junior doctors would prefer to continue their training overseas than to take up a non-training post.

Australian authorities have already come to the UK to recruit doctors.

Waste of money

Dr Jo Hilborne, chairman of the BMA's Junior Doctors Committee, said: "To get to this stage of their careers, these doctors will have spent five years at medical school and at least two years in postgraduate training.

The BMA really do need to calm down, and understand what the NHS needs in terms of doctors
Lord Warner

"For each of them, this has cost the taxpayer around 250,000. The fact that they could face unemployment is outrageous.

"The alternative - pushing doctors into dead end jobs so they never get essential skills that would benefit their patients - is unacceptable and won't work. Doctors are simply going to leave the NHS instead."

Health Minister Lord Warner accused the BMA of an "over-reaction".

He said it had always been the case that doctors have had to compete for the top grades in medicine.

He said: "There will be at least 9,500 speciality posts, there are 21,000 doctors. There has always been a high level of competition for these specialty training posts.

"Doctors will be able to get their specialty training faster under this system.

"We are also going to be continuing short-term, fixed term training.

"The BMA really do need to calm down, and understand what the NHS needs in terms of doctors."

The Junior Doctors Committee will meet with officials from Modernising Medical Careers for talks on Friday.

The numbers of specialist training posts for Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have not yet been announced.


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