‘A FAILURE OF DUTY’ – Surgeons president Ribeiro quits junior doctors talks

Junior doctors marching in London against the government’s NHS ‘reforms
Junior doctors marching in London against the government’s NHS ‘reforms

Bernard Ribeiro, President of the Royal College of Surgeons, has announced his withdrawal from the crisis talks about the selection of junior doctors for training posts.

With an estimated 17,000 junior doctors facing being without a post on August 1st, Ribeiro said the government was guilty of ‘a scandalous failure of duty to address this issue’.

In an open letter to Professor Neil Douglas, Chair, of the Department of Health (DoH) MTAS Review Group, Ribeiro wrote that for two years: ‘I have repeatedly, and at length, emphasised to Ministers and policy officials at the Department of Health (DH) the essential need to make adequate transitional arrangements for a large number of well- trained, experienced and committed senior house officers who are in danger of being lost to the NHS.

‘Their career prospects and their opportunity to contribute to the care of the next generation of surgical patients are being severely compromised.

‘At my first scheduled meeting with Patricia Hewitt, Secretary of State for Health, on 11 October 2005, I made her aware of the difficulties that would arise in 2007 with unprecedented competition for a limited number of national training numbers. . .’

He added: ‘Patricia Hewitt acknowledged that there was a major problem and stated she had no wish to see trained doctors out of work or without a reasonable opportunity of progressing in their chosen specialty.’

Rebeiro continued: ‘At the time of writing, almost two years after first raising my concerns, there is still no recognition whatsoever by DH of the scale of this problem or its profound implications, far less the prospect of an acceptable solution in terms of a temporary expansion of national training numbers.’

Ribeiro also said that it is his duty as President of the Royal College of Surgeons to ensure that the money invested in the training of this talented generation of young surgeons is not squandered.

He has asked for 240 extra senior training posts over the next three years.

There is also a fundamental concern that trainees for specialist surgery are being selected too early in their career, before they have had a chance to prove their dexterity in the operating theatre.

He added: ‘I am also concerned about the arrangements for selection of junior doctors into run-through surgical training programmes.’

Health Minister Lord Hunt said he regretted Ribeiro’s resignation but that discussions would continue.