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22.09.17

BMA finds ‘chronic shortage’ of doctors across key medical specialities

Patient safety is at risk due to a “chronic shortage” of doctors across a number of areas of medicine, the BMA has today warned.

Figures obtained by the organisation through Freedom of Information requests showed that shockingly, training places in three out of four medical specialties in England went unfilled last year, with many specialities seeing staff shortfalls continue to worsen year on year.

They also revealed that the number of applications to UK medical schools had decreased for the third year in a row, which represents a 13% drop since 2013.

Applications to the foundation programme, the first year of doctors’ training following medical, were also spiralling, with the number of applicants to courses hitting its lowest-ever level in 2016.

Areas of medicine where vacancies were felt the most were in psychiatry, genitourinary medicine (GUM) and emergency medicine.

Fill rates were found to vary across the country. In the north, east and West Midlands, vacancies were found to be particularly high, while fill rates were higher in London and the south.

The BMA suggested that this decline was potentially due to higher tuition fees as well as rising workloads, dwindling morale and the extremely unpopular pay cap for public sector workers.

“It is deeply concerning that we are seeing a drop off at each stage of doctors’ training, we have to ask why some, who have spent many years training to become a doctor, are deciding not to continue in the profession,” said Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair.

“We know that many doctors are struggling with unsustainable workloads in an NHS that is understaffed and chronically underfunded. This has a huge impact on their morale and wellbeing, often leading to stress and burnout.”

Dr Nagpaul also argued that Brexit posed a new risk, with almost half of EU doctors considering leaving the health service following the referendum result.

“With the NHS at breaking point, if the government doesn’t get to grips with this workforce crisis, the NHS will struggle to attract and retain highly trained staff, and patient care will suffer as a result,” he continued.

“Ignoring this staffing crisis creates to a vicious circle, compound existing problems, adding to pressure on existing staff making them more likely to leave.”

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