Denise Robertson on the shortage of doctors
More training places at medical schools could help avert a crisis
With this month seeing a new generation of students leaving home to start further education and the promise of an exciting future career, I couldn’t help but remember a call I took from a mum whose daughter, with 4 A* A levels, was still was unable to get a university place to study medicine.
Only ten per cent of applicants to medical schools were successful this year. The expert with me asked if she would consider pharmacy or something akin to medicine? No, her heart was set on being a doctor. Our advice was to keep on applying, next year if necessary, but the odds would still be nine to one against.
Which is all the more concerning when you read that thousands of GPs are refusing to take on new patients because of a shortage of doctors and mounting workloads. The crisis is so bad that in some inner city areas, up to one post in five is unfilled. A third of GPs are over 50 and in some places half of family doctors are nearing retirement age. “It is something we have been warning the Government and previous governments about for some time,” the British Medical Association has said.
Shortages of GPs have reached crisis levels and blame is being laid on restrictions placed on the number of training places in the past five years. The Royal College of General Practitioners has said the rush to early retirement by overworked GPs “is an unbelievable and frightening waste of wisdom and skill” and attempts to recruit GPs from abroad are putting “a sticking plaster on a gaping sore”.
If training places were expanded, there would be at least one talented young woman with a burning desire to treat the sick who would increase her odds of realising her ambition. If she doesn’t eventually get her heart’s desire, we will have potentially lost a very good doctor.