‘IT IS a very hollow gesture, to open up more spaces while simultaneously driving doctors out of the profession,’ said Dr Aislinn Macklin-Doherty.
She was responding to Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s announcement yesterday that the number of medical school places will increase by 25% from 2018. The government’s plan will see the 6,000 cap on training places breached and a new cap of 7,500 a year installed.
The extra costs of training will be partially covered by increasing the tuition fees of international students studying in the UK to become doctors. Over the last year, Hunt has launched war on the junior doctors, intent on imposing a contract that doctors rightly insist is unsafe for patients.
Last month, the BMA leadership called off the next round of junior doctors’ strikes.
Macklin-Doherty continued: ‘It is very clear that the only thing that has moved the Department of Health over the past year is industrial action, it is our only option.
‘I would fully advocate restoring three day strikes. It is no coincidence about the timing of this announcement to increase the number of training places for trainee doctors. This is to deflect from the fact that Jeremy Hunt’s policies have cause one of the biggest crises in NHS history.
‘He is attempting to deflect the harm that he has caused on the NHS. Let’s look at the crisis that he has caused. He has to treat the cause and not the symptoms and the cause is his policies. Two of Hunt’s policies are driving doctors out of the NHS.
‘A totally unfunded seven-day NHS idea with no extra staff and no extra resources will send the NHS into freefall and bring it to its knees. He is stretching the same number of doctors over two extra days. Even if they opened the places up tomorrow, it takes six years for doctors to be trained.
‘The other policy is the STPs – Sustainability and Transformation Plans – this will be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Patients will die as a result of all these changes. Medical students could get into university through clearance for the first time in history. This means that students are being discouraged from going into the profession.’
Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair said yesterday: ‘The government must tackle the root causes of this workforce crisis and the reasons why so many UK-trained doctors are considering leaving the NHS rather than forcing doctors to stay in the health service.’
Hunt also announced yesterday that trainee doctors will be forced to work in the NHS for four years before they can apply to work abroad. Many young doctors travel abroad to improve the health of people living in developing nations.
Porter continued: ‘Over the past year, junior doctors across the country have raised concerns about the reality of working in an overstretched NHS and the impact that has on their morale and patient care. Demotivated, burnt-out doctors who don’t want to be in their jobs will not be good for patients.’
Porter added: ‘This initiative will not stop the NHS from needing to recruit overseas staff. International doctors bring great skill and expertise to the NHS. Without them, our health service would not be able to cope.’
Lara Carmona, Associate Director of Policy, International & Parliamentary at the RCN, said: ‘A big contributing factor to this crisis has been retention as well as recruitment. Many nurses are working for agencies because they can no longer afford to work for the NHS after a 14% real-terms pay cut in recent years. More must be done to ensure the NHS can keep the staff it already has.’