Junior doctors face ‘serious threat’ of unemployment

Unemployment has become a serious threat to junior doctors, the British Medical Association (BMA) has warned.

The BMA said that intense competition of posts had left many junior doctors without jobs to go to when their contracts end next week. Many are now considering leaving the country, abandoning the profession or claiming unemployment benefit.

In a letter to Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt, the BMA blamed increasing demand and poor planning for the problem. The numbers of places at medical school, along with the number of overseas applications, have risen, but the numbers of postgraduate training places have not increased at the same rate, the BMA said.

Many other jobs had also been phased out as a result of the new Modernising Medical Careers training structure.

The government said that there had been no reduction in the number of Senior House Officer (SHO) posts – the middle training grade for doctors.

However, according to BMA research, the number of SHO jobs advertised in the British Medical Journal – the main source of such adverts – was reduced by half between May 2002 and May 2005.

The BMA said that over 200 junior doctors applied for every training post and some jobs were attracting over a thousand applications.

The exact number of doctors who have been unable to find a job is not known, but 37.7% of the 276 first-year doctors who participated in an online BMA survey said that they had not been offered a post to start next week. Many more experienced doctors had also found it difficult to find a job.

Eighty-seven per cent of those surveyed expressed concerned about the shortage of training posts. Over half (58%) said that they would consider going overseas in order to continue training, while nearly a third (32%) said they would consider leaving the profession altogether.

Simon Eccles, Chairman of the BMA’s Junior Doctors Committee said that the situation was “far worse” than anyone had expected. He said: “We keep hearing from doctors who have been turned down for hundreds of jobs and now have no idea what they are 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. It costs around a quarter of a million pounds to train a doctor to this level. A lot of talent and taxpayers money to going to waste.”

The BMA has called on the government to address the issue by expanding the number of doctors in higher specialist training and investing the necessary funding to accredit more posts for training.

The Department of Health said that there had always been competition for SHO posts, but said that the number of applicants had also increased this year. A spokesperson said that the situation was under review.


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