Academic medicine: a faltering engine

BMJ 2002; 324 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.324.7335.437 (Published 23 February 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;324:437

Action is needed to respond to growing need and opportunities

  1. Paul M Stewart, professor of medicine
  1. University of Birmingham, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TH

    News p 446

    “Oh let me lead an academicke life”

    B Hall, Virgidem 1599;IV:83

    Arecent report for the council of heads of medical schools for the United Kingdom has concluded that 1000 more clinical academic posts will be needed by 2006 to train 2500 more medical students—a 60% increase in the number of students since 1998.1 Clinical research is also under threat: the number of clinical academics active in research in British universities fell by 12% between the 1996 and 2001 research assessment exercises (from 2813 to 2469 full time equivalents).2 Despite this, there is a crisis in recruitment and retention of clinical academics within the United Kingdom such that over 10% of posts are unfilled.1 This is not a new problem. In 1995 a House of Lords select committee drew attention to recruitment problems in academic medicine. In 1997 the Richards report made 35 recommendations to prevent a threat to academic medicine, yet few of these were acted on.3 Why has this crisis occurred and what can be done about it?

    Unfortunately there is no single culprit. The uncertain career structure for clinical academics remains a major disincentive. Although the specialist registrar training programme provides a structured and accelerated approach to training junior doctors, it lacks flexibility in accommodating the training of academics, which involves a postdoctoral research fellowship. Undertaking a period of protected research …

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