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BMA Annual Representative Meeting: “Black hole” is opening up for 11 500 junior doctors

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 29 June 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:14
  1. Annabel Ferriman
  1. Belfast

    Doctors at the BMA annual representatives' meeting in Belfast this week expressed outrage at the probable shortage of 11 500 training posts for junior doctors next year.

    Jo Hilborne, who chairs the BMA's Junior Doctors Committee, appealed to the 550 representatives to save junior doctors from “the career black hole currently looming before them.”

    The senior house officer grade will cease to exist next summer as part of Modernising Medical Careers, the NHS's new training and careers structure for doctors, and more than 21 000 doctors will be looking for posts in specialist training programmes, she said.

    The Modernising Medical Careers team announced on 5 June that there would be 9500 training posts in England for these doctors (BMJ 2006;332:1471, 24 Jun).

    “Since then they have told us that there may be more, dependent on local negotiations between postgraduate deans and NHS trusts. They will not be able to confirm the numbers of any further posts until January next year,” Dr Hilborne said.

    She said, “Meanwhile the health minister has accused the Junior Doctors Committee of panicking. We are not panicking. We are incensed.

    “We are incensed at the cavalier way this announcement was made, with no discussion with ourselves, without even the courtesy of being told that an announcement was to be made.

    “We are incensed that the health department thinks this is a perfectly reasonable and proper way to dispose of the careers and aspirations of 11 500 junior doctors. And we are incensed that patients and taxpayers in the UK will see young doctors choosing other countries in which to continue their training or leaving for other professions.”

    Dr Hilborne, who is a specialist registrar in obstetrics and gynaecology in Cardiff, told a press conference later that she thought the government's agenda was to push a lot of these senior house officers into service posts rather than training posts. Once doctors were in these posts it would be difficult for them to ever get back into training posts.

    Ian Wilson, a consultant anaesthetist from Yorkshire and a member of the BMA council, agreed: “This is a ticking time bomb which needs to be defused. I think this is workforce reconfiguration by the back door,” he told the meeting.

    The move would lead to a virtual doubling of the number of doctors in the staff and associate specialist grade and would take the NHS away from its goal of a consultant led service, he said.

    James Johnson, chairman of the BMA, said: “This is a terribly important motion. It is a huge crisis. We can't allow a large proportion of these 21 000 doctors to be sacrificed. It is completely and utterly unacceptable.”

    The representatives passed the motion “This meeting is outraged by the recent announcement that there will be far fewer specialty training posts in 2007 than there are doctors eligible for them.”

    It added that it would lead to many doctors leaving Britain, that it was incompatible with a consultant delivered service, and that the government should delay the implementation of the run-through grade (specialty training programmes) until enough posts are confirmed.

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