28/07/2005

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.

(KMcA/SP)

Related UK National News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

16 June 2003
More assistance needed for refugee doctors says BMA
The British Medical Association (BMA) has called for refugee doctors to be given more assistance to pass exams necessary for registration in UK. There are currently 865 refugee doctors on voluntary databases who want to work for the NHS, according to the BMA, and many are subsisting on state benefits of £37 per week.
03 August 2009
Improvements For Welsh Junior Doctors Sought
A campaign aimed at improving the working lives of junior doctors in Wales gets underway today. BMA Cymru Wales has become increasingly concerned about working conditions of junior doctors in general.
19 October 2004
Training budget shortfalls threatens NHS staff levels, says BMA
Shortfalls in the budget for doctors' training in England will have a "detrimental effect" on patient care and NHS staffing levels, the British Medical Association (BMA) has warned. In a briefing paper for MPs, the association called on the government to reinstate the funding to safeguard the quality of training.
12 September 2003
Doctors urge Home Secretary to end ‘asylum limbo’
Asylum-seeking doctors are being left in limbo by inflexible immigration policies that prevent them working, despite an international NHS recruitment campaign, according to doctor’s newspaper the BMA News.
30 July 2003
Overworked junior doctors could seek legal action, says BMA
Three out of four hospitals are risking legal action because they have failed to meet a deadline on junior doctors' hours, the BMA warned today. A BMA survey earlier this month showed that over half of senior house officers and registrars are still working above the 56-hour limit, and almost a quarter are working over 70 hours a week.