Royal college launches five year plan to increase applicants to psychiatry

Authors: Helen Jaques 

Publication date:  27 Mar 2012

The Royal College of Psychiatrists has announced a five year plan to increase applications to core training in psychiatry by 50% and achieve a 95% fill rate for these posts.

Last year at the end of round two recruitment in England and Wales only 83% of the 478 vacancies for core psychiatry training had been filled, with fill rates particularly poor in Wales but good in London.

The college aims to increase the number of unique applicants to core training posts to 600 in 2016 by promoting psychiatry as a career to medical students, junior doctors, and, in the longer term, A level students.

The number of foundation training posts in psychiatry will be increased to 7.5% in foundation year one by August 2013 and 7.5% in foundation year two by August 2014.

“We’re particularly keen to increase the number of posts at foundation year one level because people make career choices usually during foundation year one or at the beginning of foundation year two,” said Tom Brown, associate registrar for recruitment at the Royal College of Psychiatry. “If we can pull this off just under half of foundation doctors will be exposed to psychiatry during their two years.”

Many medical students and junior doctors are put off psychiatry as a career because they perceive the specialty as remote from the rest of medicine and lacking an evidence base compared with other specialties, said Dr Brown. Some trainees see psychiatric patients as “difficult” and untreatable, he adds, and psychiatrists are frequently the subject of critical comments from other doctors.

The college’s recruitment plan will tackle these negative perceptions of psychiatry by introducing with other organisations such as the Department of Health a zero tolerance policy towards stigmatising attitudes from other doctors and by encouraging other royal colleges to express the value of psychiatry to their specialty.

Summer schools and medical school psychiatry societies will be established to recruit undergraduate medical students to the specialty. The college also proposes increasing the number of “taster” placements in psychiatry for doctors in foundation training.

The college plans to focus its recruitment efforts to in particular UK medical graduates, which it says have unique exposure to and experience of the sociocultural context of the UK. In addition psychiatry has a higher proportion of international doctors than other specialties.

Helen Jaques news reporter BMJ Careers

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