AS many as 3,000 junior doctors are unable to find posts and are being driven to seek work either abroad or outside the NHS, according to research carried out by the British Medical Association in August and released today.
A BMA statement yesterday said: ‘The BMA calls on the Department of Health in England to address medical unemployment today (Tuesday 20 September 2005), as new research suggests that the number of junior doctors unable to find posts last month may have been underestimated.
‘In the absence of central figures on the numbers of doctors out of post, the BMA set out to get a clearer idea of the scale of the problem.
‘In August, it sent questionnaires to a random sample of 2,356 junior doctors in the UK.
‘Of the 675 who responded, almost one in ten (65) had been unable to find work as a doctor in the UK.
‘If the same proportion applies to the total numbers of doctors in these grades, as many as 3,000 junior doctors in the UK could have been affected.
‘Other evidence has shown that the problem is most acute in England and Wales, and has not been a major issue in Scotland or Northern Ireland.
‘Many doctors have already begun applying for posts in Australia and New Zealand.
‘The survey shows that around a third (35 per cent) of the survey respondents who had not found a post were no longer looking for work in the NHS, equating to a loss of around 900 doctors if the pattern applies across England and Wales.’
Commenting on the findings, Dr Jo Hilborne, chair-elect of the BMA’s Junior Doctors Committee, said: ‘We know there’s a problem, and we’re keen to work with the government to help deal with it.
‘These are people who are desperate to work for the NHS, and have spent years of their lives in training at a huge cost to the taxpayer.
‘Patients’ healthcare needs are growing, the country is still short of doctors, and we should be doing everything we can to prevent their skills from being wasted.
‘Many doctors are on short-term contracts that expire in February, and unless something is done very quickly, we’re going to have the same problems all over again.’
The BMA said it believes that the intense competition for training posts has been the result of an increase in numbers of doctors graduating from medical school and a rise in the number of overseas doctors hoping to train in the UK.
In addition, it believes that reforms to the medical training structure may have resulted in some long-term posts being phased out.
It is calling for improved workforce planning and the introduction of a system where overseas doctors do not come to the UK until they have at least a provisional offer of a training post.
It has also written to the Health Secretary calling for an expansion of numbers of doctors in specialist training, and an increase in funding to accredit more posts for training.