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Mark Fulford: Labour are about to trash the careers of 8,000 junior doctors

Mark Fulford is a founder and director of two software businesses: one a publishing house and the other an online store.

Patricia Hewitt, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are about to trash the careers of 8,000 “junior” doctors in specialist training. These are doctors who have spent 5 years on a medical degree and then a further 3 to 5 years on post-graduate training. In a reorganisation of training, known as “Modernising Medical Careers”, 8,000 doctors (who are still required by the NHS) are being prevented from practicing medicine in the UK.

It is a scandalous disregard of people and waste of 72,000 man-years and £2 billion of training costs. It’s also a scandal that that the royal colleges, media and opposition politicians have all been so limp-wristed, letting the government get away with it.

I believe that the reason behind the ineffective response is that very few understand exactly how bad this is for the affected doctors. We find it hard to believe that these doctors (who, after all, are the doctors you see in A&E, emergency surgery, resuscitation, etc) really will be out of a career. Unfortunately, unlike most careers, that is exactly what is happening. Although they are the backbone of the NHS, junior doctors are still in training and can not practice outside a training post. If they don’t have a training post within the NHS then they can not practice medicine in the UK, and can only wait until next year to re-apply. If they do re-apply next year (presumably having stacked shelves in the meantime) then they are a year out-of-practice, making it unlikely that they’ll get a post in a highly competitive applications process. Their careers are effectively over.

So while we lay people didn’t understand how bad it was, the government hoodwinked the BMA and, unsurprisingly, the BBC.

In a recent article the BBC reports government apologies and tinkering to the interview process with the headline Doctors training crisis ‘averted’, as if the battle was won. They quote Dr Tom Dolphin, of the BMA's Junior Doctors Committee as saying the system is “far from perfect…” but “…better than it was".

As Nick Robinson would say: Really?

Last week, Dr Jo Hilborne, chairman of the BMA Junior Doctors Committee, said: “Not only has the government failed to design a fair recruitment process, they’ve also misled everyone on the number of jobs available. Even if the application system improves, thousands of doctors are going to find themselves without a training post in August.”

And Dr Tom Dolphin (the one who the BBC quoted as saying “better than it was”) said: “It’s a terrible waste of talent and public money but the government’s failure to plan the NHS workforce means that thousands of UK doctors aren’t going to get opportunities to train to become GPs and consultants.”

Our politicians and media need to hold the government to account on this. Please stop the endless coverage of captured marines that is putting too many serious issues in the shade.


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