Headlines: July 28th, 2005

The British Medical Association says unemployment has become a serious
threat to junior doctors with new figures showing a shortage of training
jobs and intensive competition leaving many junior doctors with no posts to
go to when their contracts end next Tuesday.

Each doctors’ training has cost almost a quarter of a million pounds but
many, according to the BMA, are now thinking of leaving the country,
abandoning the profession, or just claiming unemployment benefit.

In a letter today to Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt, the BMA says the
problem is caused partly by increasing demand and partly by poor planning.
Medical school places have increased and overseas applications are also
going up but the number of postgraduate training posts has not increased at
the same rate.

The Association believes the situation has been made worse because many jobs
have been phased out as a result of the new Modernising Medical Careers
training structure. Although the government says there has been no reduction
in the number of Senior House Officer posts, the BMA’s own research has
revealed the number of SHO jobs advertised in BMJ Careers -the main source
of such adverts – fell by half in the three years to May this year. An
average of 200 plus junior doctors apply for each training post, with some
jobs attracting more than a thousand applicants.

In its letter to Patricia Hewitt the BMA is calling on the Government to
expand the numbers of doctors in higher specialist training and to invest
the necessary funding to accredit more posts for training.

Simon Eccles, chairman of the BMA’s Junior Doctors Committee, said the
situation was far worse than anyone expected. “We keep hearing from doctors
who’ve been turned down for hundreds of jobs and now have no idea what
they’re going to do. It makes no sense that at a time when the country is
short of fully trained medical staff, we’re pushing doctors into
unemployment,” he added.

The BMA admits that it does not know the exact number of doctors unable to
find a job, but more than one in three of the 276 first-year doctors who
responded to a survey on the BMA website said they did not have a job to go
to next week. Many more experienced doctors have also been unable to find a
job. The survey found 87 per cent of doctors were concerned about shortages
of training posts and 58 per cent said they would consider going overseas to
continue training if they were unable to find an accredited training post
here. One in three was considering leaving the profession altogether.