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Welsh government is urged to tackle junior doctor shortage

Authors: Caroline White 

Publication date:  08 Aug 2012


Orthopaedic operations at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital in Llantrisant have been cancelled because of a shortage of junior doctors, leading to renewed calls for the Welsh government to do more than mount “a marketing campaign” to tackle the lack of doctors in the country.

In February the Welsh government launched a campaign, “Work for Wales,” which included a glossy website extolling the virtues of life in Wales, to attract more young doctors to the country.[1]

But the BMA in Wales has said that this isn’t enough and that the time has come for the government to take more concerted action.

“It’s clearly a marketing campaign [for Wales] as a destination to live and work, as opposed to the other things the government could do to address the shortages,” said a BMA spokeswoman. “Every time politicians are asked about what they are doing, they wheel out the campaign, but it’s certainly not the answer to all our problems.”

Wales has large rural areas, which junior doctors in particular did not find attractive, she added. But the idea of a bonding scheme, designed to attract doctors to rural areas by offering to pay off part of their student loans, was one of several that had fallen on deaf ears, she said.

David Samuel, chairman of the BMA’s Junior Doctors’ Committee in Wales, said: “The issue has come to the fore in orthopaedics because it’s procedure led and cancellations grab headlines. But there are chronic shortages in other specialties which just rumble on, relying on good will to cover them.”

Emergency medicine, which he described as “atrocious and falling apart at the seams,” paediatrics, and psychiatry had been particularly hard hit by the shortfalls, he said.

Patient safety was a concern, he warned, with too many doctors working unacceptably long hours. “There are wards being run by very junior doctors who are unsupervised, and that’s bordering on downright dangerous,” he said.

Services in Wales had traditionally relied on overseas doctors to fill posts, he said, but changes to immigration rules had “tipped [the situation] over the edge,” he suggested.

Another problem is that Wales has only one deanery, meaning that placements could be many miles away from one another, which took its toll on personal life, he said. “The deanery needs to listen and split Wales into two, otherwise it will put off doctors from doing their training here.”

A Welsh government spokeswoman said, “The shortage of doctors in certain specialties is a problem facing all parts of the UK, including Wales. We are responding with Work for Wales, a long term campaign to raise awareness of the opportunities and benefits of working for the health service in Wales.”

As yet no figures are available on whether the campaign has had any effect on recruitment.

References

  1. Torjesen I. Wales launches campaign to attract young doctors. BMJ Careers  10 Feb 2012. http://careers.bmj.com/careers/advice/view-article.html?id=20006583.

Caroline White BMJ

 cwhite@bmj.com

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