Unemployment warning for future doctors

DOCTORS in the UK could be heading for a period of underemployment or even unemployment, the BMA has warned.

A discussion paper published by the association predicts that significant change and uncertainty in the UK medical workforce could result in “preventable medical underemployment and possibly unemployment”.

Medical redundancies do not appear to have caused unemployment so far, the BMA said, but added that “it is vital we continue to monitor the situation carefully”.

Underemployment, where a doctor can’t find a post that matches their experience or can’t find work during part of the normal working week, “is currently not prevalent in the UK”, the report said, but there were suggestions it is appearing “in small pockets”. One example of underemployment cited is doctors working in post-certificate of completion of training (CCT) fellowship roles.

The BMA paper said: “In some specialties (eg trauma and orthopaedic surgery) some trainees are working in a clinical fellowship post to make them more competitive for applying for a consultant position.

“While some royal colleges (eg the Royal College of Surgeons) embrace this grade and value the extra experience it provides doctors, until all specialties ensure training elements are built into a post-CCT role, this grade could be perceived as being a form of medical underemployment.”

The BMA doesn’t believe moving the point of registration will solve the problem of an oversupply of doctors. They called for detailed analysis to validate the proposal which was put forward in Health Education England’s Shape of training report in November. They also want a calculation of the number of doctors taking overseas jobs as well as the number of trainee doctors working in trust grade posts or as locums.

The paper also calls for detailed costs to be worked out before implementing any recommendations proposed in the Shape of training review and a calculation of the number of doctors needed to deliver a generalist-based service.

Read the report here