Call to tackle trainee shortage in Wales

ORTHOPAEDIC operations at a hospital in Wales have been cancelled due to a shortage of junior doctors, sparking calls for more to be done to tackle the problem.

The cancellations were implemented at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital in Llantrisant. The move comes despite a campaign launched in February by the Welsh government, entitled Work for Wales, designed to attract more doctors to the country.

Now the BMA in Wales is calling on the government to do more to tackle the employment crisis.

“It’s clearly a marketing campaign [for Wales] as a destination to live and work, as opposed to the other things the government could do to address the shortages,” a BMA spokeswoman told BMJ Careers. “Every time politicians are asked about what they are doing, they wheel out the campaign, but it’s certainly not the answer to all our problems.”

She said many junior doctors were put off by the large rural areas in Wales and suggested the government offer incentives such as a bonding scheme that would help pay off student loans. It’s also thought that changes to immigration rules restricting the number of overseas doctors applying for posts has contributed to the problem.

David Samuel, chair of the BMA’s Junior Doctors Committee in Wales, said there are chronic shortages of trainees in specialties other than orthopaedics, with a reliance on “good will” to cover rota gaps. He highlighted emergency medicine, paediatrics and psychiatry as being particularly hard hit.

He warned patient safety could be affected, adding: “There are wards being run by very junior doctors who are unsupervised, and that’s bordering on downright dangerous.” He suggested that Wales be split into two deaneries to ensure placements were not situated miles apart.

A Welsh government spokesman told BMJ Careers: “The shortage of doctors in certain specialties is a problem facing all parts of the UK, including Wales. We are responding with Work for Wales, a long term campaign to raise awareness of the opportunities and benefits of working for the health service in Wales.”