Sir, Further to the announcement of the creation of five new medical schools (report, Mar 20, and letter, Mar 21), training more doctors in “places where doctor shortages are greatest” shows a lack of understanding by the health secretary and the Department of Health. Medical staff move around while they train; good medical/surgical experience transcends environment when the staff are valued. (Five New Medical Schools: better late than never)
More than one third of medical graduates, laden with debt, now leave the NHS either to work abroad or for other careers within three years of qualifying. This is a vast change. The medical system that provided mentor support and a sense of belonging between consultant and junior doctors has been destroyed by the European working time directive and the introduction of a shift system.
The contracted training scheme introduced by Kenneth Calman, the chief medical officer, in 1996 with no guarantee of future employment encouraged many of those who were well qualified not to wait until unemployment loomed but to jump before they were pushed. The enforced new contract by Jeremy Hunt has been the last straw for my younger colleagues and also some towards the end of their careers.
The appraisal and revalidation system for doctors introduced after the Harold Shipman affair is regarded by my colleagues as a complete waste of time and a further burden on a strained workforce. The GMC has meekly accepted all this and indeed has helped to inflict early retirement on those who wish to avoid this bureaucracy, leading to a huge loss of medical experience and expertise.
Professor Colin G Fink
Clinical microbiologist, University of Warwick
Sir, Your report that five new medical schools are to open in the next two years to train 1,500 more doctors a year indicates that the government has misunderstood the issues facing the health service. The solution is to make the doctors who are already being trained want to stay and work in the NHS for their whole career. The money earmarked for the new medical schools should be spent on improving existing resources and to support NHS staff.
Retired consultant anaesthetist, Solihull, W Midlands
Sir, Dr Andrew Cairns (“Medical attributes”, letter, Mar 21) urges the lowering of the academic bar in the selection of would-be doctors. In the first week of my medical training at the University of Sheffield I was summoned to see my dean, who informed me gravely that, on going through my papers, he had noticed that my O-level results showed that I had obtained only 38 per cent in French when the pass rate had been 40 per cent.
That was that: my national service exemption was withdrawn and I ended up as a pilot in the RAF. For the rest of my working life I was a probation officer.
Rotherham, S Yorks
Sir, I support Dr Cairns’s views on lowering the academic bar for entry to medical school because it might enable a sensible 50/50 gender split. Male GPs are less liable to work part-time and would therefore be a more efficient investment for the NHS. Full or near full-time GPs facilitate an important element of general practice, namely continuity of care.
Dr Richard Morey (retired GP)