Intended for healthcare professionals


BMA will oppose army-style conscription of doctors to NHS

BMJ 2017; 357 doi: (Published 29 June 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;357:j3154
  1. Abi Rimmer
  1. BMJ Careers
  1. arimmer{at}

The BMA has rejected the health secretary’s plan to require UK trained doctors to work in the NHS for four years and will oppose any move to impose a minimum period of NHS employment on doctors.

In October last year England’s health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, announced plans to require doctors to work in the NHS for at least four years after qualification unless they repaid part of the £220 000 it took to train them.1

Delegates at the BMA’s annual representative meeting voted in favour of a motion which recommended that the government should seek to understand why junior doctors might leave the NHS. The motion also rejected the Hunt’s four year proposal and opposed any move to impose a minimum period of NHS employment.

Emma Runswick, a medical student, proposed the motion. “The proposal to conscript doctors to the NHS army-style is merely a ploy to distract from the government’s horrendous record,” she said. “We have suffered poor workforce planning for many years, but now we also have intolerable workforce conditions that are creating an exodus of doctors of all grades from the NHS. That is our problem, not a supposed lack of return on investment.”

Runswick said that the proposals would not increase doctors’ commitment to the NHS but instead threaten the wellbeing of those who did wish to leave the NHS. “Trapping people in situations that are making them unwell can only lead to bad outcomes,” she said. “Retention, not subscription, is the answer.”

Supporting the motion, Anne Thorpe, a London based consultant pathologist, said that the government should consider why UK trained junior doctors wanted to work abroad.

“For many it might well have something to do with poor working conditions, gaps in rotas, being denigrated by the secretary of state, and having a contract imposed rather than negotiating,” she said. “Compelling doctors to stay here against their will is not the hallmark of a civilised and democratic country.”