BBC - BMA junior doctors reject training reform - 10/5/2004

Doctors reject training reform

The government wants to cut the time it takes for doctors to qualify
Junior doctors have declared a vote of no confidence in government plans to reform medical training.
The British Medical Association (BMA) says a rush to reform has created chaos and it will support medics who decide to boycott new programmes.

Junior doctors take at least seven years to become consultants after leaving medical school.

The government says as a result some are spending years learning specialist skills they do not necessarily need.

But junior doctors voted against plans to "modernise medical careers" at their annual conference in London on Saturday.

Information call

"At the meeting there was a feeling of insecurity about the future of training," spokesman for the BMA told BBC News Online.

"We think that modernising careers brings a lot of benefits, but there is concern that these reforms are being rushed through, and that there is lack of information for medical students."

He said the BMA would continue to work with the government to make sure its concerns were addressed, and warned that the time scale was short because the new reform was due to come into effect next year.

The government wants to reduce the length of time it takes junior doctors to qualify with a new plan from August 2005.

The BMA will support anyone who wishes to boycott part of their foundation programme

Simon Eccles
The first two years of training will be replaced with a foundation programme under the Modernising Medical Careers scheme.

The BMA agrees the current training programme is too long.

But it says there is little information about what the second year of the new programme would contain or how doctors' skills would be assessed.

Simon Eccles is chairman of the BMA's junior doctors committee.

He said: "Medical students are being expected to apply for their first jobs without knowing what they'll be learning, whether or not their experience will count towards their future training, what they will be paid, or where they will be based.

"The BMA will support anyone who wishes to boycott an undefined part of their foundation programme."

Consultant fears

The association is also worried about plans to let some doctors qualify as consultants without advanced specialist training.

"The NHS has always trained consultants to a level where they can deal with the full range of emergencies in their speciality," he said.

"Someone who hasn't been trained to the point where they can work without supervision is not a consultant."

Professor Stephen Field, of the Department of Health, admitted the government must do more to address doctors' concerns.

He told the BBC: "We need to carry on working with people from all over the UK so that we can make these changes a success for junior doctors and our patients."

It would be far better than the ancient system we have now, which is not doing anybody any good

Dr Simon Minkoff
Medics also want communications modernised with mobile phones for doctors.

The bleep system currently used by the NHS to contact staff means doctors and nurses can be called away from patients without knowing whether it is for something more important.

Dr Simon Minkoff, chairman of the BMA's North Thames junior doctors committee, said improving communication to save time was crucial ahead of the European Working Time Directive - which will cut maximum working hours.

And he said it would be a good investment for the NHS.

"It would be far better than the ancient system we have now, which is not doing anybody any good," he said.

Dr Minkoff said mobiles were 10 times less likely to interfere with hospital equipment than the radios carried by ambulance staff and other NHS personnel.

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