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Funding cut for deaneries could result in fewer junior doctors, conference told

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: (Published 11 May 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:1114
  1. Andrew Cole
  1. London

    Severe cuts in medical deaneries' funding next year could lead to a 10% drop in the number of junior doctors, a conference on careers in academic medicine was warned this week.

    Professor Stephen Field, the postgraduate dean at West Midlands Deanery, told delegates at the Royal College of Physicians that deaneries across England were facing a 10% cut in funding in 2006-7.

    “The next few years are going to be very difficult,” he said. “Deaneries are under threat and may disappear in name.” His own deanery was set to lose its name in the next four weeks as part of this reorganisation.

    Many deaneries throughout the United Kingdom would probably need to merge to fit into the new structures while cuts in funding would mean cuts in staff. “If this is followed through there could be a 10% reduction in the number of junior doctors.”

    He was also concerned about the shortage of academic leaders. Birmingham, for instance, had a problem with many surgical specialties. “Within the last year very little research has been going on in the surgical specialties.”

    Meanwhile a yet to be published survey found that medical lectureships were very unevenly distributed around the country. Some areas, such as Yorkshire and the West Midlands, had more than 30 lectureships in each of their deaneries, but some areas had none.

    Despite Professor Field's concerns, the conference heard that the prospects for future academic medical careers were brighter than they had been for many years. “There are new opportunities at every stage of the academic clinical career,” said Mark Walport, the chairman of the academic subcommittee of Modernising Medical Careers and the UK Clinical Research Collaboration.

    He highlighted big increases in the number of academic clinical fellowships, interim clinical lectureships, and senior clinical lectureships. There are now 550 academic clinical fellowships in certificate of completion of training (CCT) specialties, for example. And this was only the start—a similar number would be awarded next year.

    The keys to the new approach were flexibility, with junior doctors able to move in and out of academic training at any stage, and mentorship. “Getting your mentor right is probably the most important decision you ever make,” he told the audience.

    Professor Patrick Vallance, formerly a registrar with the Academy of Medical Sciences, had a number of tips for those wishing to pursue academic careers:

    Think about what research you want to do well in advance

    Don't slip into a project that just happens to be available

    Don't forget the importance of biology, chemistry, and physics

    Don't moonlight

    “Far too many people think that when people are doing a PhD it's OK to spend three nights on call during the week,” he said. “My view is very clearly it's not. When you're doing a PhD you have got to think about research and not about the last patient you saw yesterday. You have got to be clear where your priorities are.”

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