Britain may see surplus of specialist physicians in a few years

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LONDON (Reuters), Jan 12 - Thousands of doctors training in England could be forced to move abroad because there will be no jobs for them when they qualify, the head of the British Medical Association said on Thursday.

"It costs around 250,000 pounds to train a doctor plus many more years of specialist training," said BMA Chairman James Johnson.

But he said poor staff planning meant that in three years there would be too many doctors and not enough funding to pay for them. "If juniors cannot secure suitable jobs in the future within the NHS they may look overseas for employment. What a disastrous waste of public money."

A leaked Department of Health paper last week forecast there would be a surplus in England of 3,200 consultants by 2010 as well as a shortage of 1,200 family doctors.

At around the same time there would also be a "bulge" of up to 21,000 junior doctors looking for specialist posts because of changes to their training regime, Johnson said.

He said this would coincide with an expected decline in the amount of money available for the National Health Service after years of above-inflation increases in funding.

"By that time the ability to afford (doctors) will have reduced considerably," he said.

Johnson said by the end of this financial year there would already be 50 fully trained specialist orthopaedic surgeons unable to get a job in Britain, with a similar situation in ophthalmology.

"We've got a bit of a problem now ... but we are looking forward to an enormous problem in the years ahead."

"The whole situation demonstrates an appalling lack of workforce planning," he said.

Suggestions contained in the leaked health department paper that trainee medics could be encouraged to switch to fill the expected shortage of general practitioners were a good idea, Johnson said.

By Tim Castle

Last Updated: 2007-01-11 15:14:26 -0400 (Reuters Health)

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