Junior doctors prepare to abandon NHS as training places disappear

Thousands of junior doctors could leave the NHS because of an emerging workforce planning disaster, the British Medical Association (BMA) has warned.

At its annual conference last week, the BMA claimed that a dearth of training posts means many young doctors will move abroad or leave medicine.

More than a third of the 235 junior hospital doctors who responded to a BMA survey said they had not been offered training posts when their current contracts end in August.

Six in 10 said they would leave the NHS to work overseas if, in future, they were unable to get an appropriate training post. A third said they would consider leaving medicine altogether.

Simon Eccles, chairman of the BMA’s junior doctors committee, said it was a huge irony that while the UK is short of doctors and hospitals are overstretched, there aren’t enough training posts.

“People are queuing up to study medicine, and thousands of doctors from overseas want to work in the NHS,” he said. “It’s absurd that such a huge amount of talent – which has cost millions of taxpayers’ pounds to nurture – could go to waste.”

The BMA also used its conference to warn that medical schools are not preparing doctors for the reality of working life in the health service.

In the past 10 years, the BMA has tracked 543 doctors who qualified in 1995. In the final annual survey, the doctors were asked how their working life compared with their expectations when they graduated from medical school. Of the 486 doctors who replied, six in 10 said it had not.

Reasons included poor quality of life, greater stress, long hours, lack of autonomy, and pressures resulting from government targets. Some said they had been very idealistic at medical school and unprepared for the reality of life as a doctor.

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