Headlines: August 26th, 2004

Doctors’ leaders have raised concerns about the future education of medical students after a report revealed that most young doctors have never considered careers in teaching and research. The report from the British Medical Association warns that recruitment of medical academics is at an all time low and there may soon be too few to provide adequate education for the increasing number of medical students.The findings are published in ‘Medical Academic Career Intentions’, a report based on the results of the BMA’s annual study of doctors who began their careers in 1995. The results give no cause for optimism that the decline will be reversed in the short term. Only a quarter of doctors surveyed said they had even thought about academic careers.

More than 470 doctors around the country were questioned about their current jobs and plans. Only 130 said they had ever considered a future in teaching or research. Among doctors who had been in a form of research post in the last twelve months – about a fifth of the total – many were not considering university careers. The factors deterring doctors from careers in teaching and research were identified as financial disincentives, lack of career structure, and the absence of advice or support. Doctors did, though, feel that academic careers offered intellectual stimulation, greater flexibility of hours and greater autonomy than hospital jobs.

The BMA has set out planned reforms to the medical training structure so doctors are given opportunities to experience teaching and research earlier in their careers. In addition, the new report says more flexible working patterns would encourage doctors not to leave academic jobs, and recommends more academic activity in both the health service and higher education.

Professor Michael Rees, chairman of the BMA’s Medical Academic Staff Committee, said the NHS needed high calibre researchers to be able to develop the best possible treatments. With medical school intakes rising, the need for qualified medical lecturers and professors to teach students was increasingly important.