BMA warns against Brexit proposal to shorten training for doctors

By agency reporter
August 5, 2018

The British Medical Association (BMA) has written to health minister Stephen Barclay warning against his idea to reduce the length of training for doctors to help plug workforce gaps in the wake of Brexit.

Speaking to the Telegraph this week, Mr Barclay said that one idea being considered by ministers is to bring forward the “point of registration” – the point at which a doctor gains full registration with the UK’s medical regulator, the General Medical Council (GMC). This proposal would provide all UK graduates with full GMC registration as soon as they leave medical school. This is currently granted after a year of working successfully as a junior doctor (FY1) during which time they hold provisional registration.

In a letter to the minister the BMA warned against this. The letter states that: “It is vital that the quality of medical education and training and standards of patient care are maintained post Brexit. The BMA firmly believes that moving the point of a doctor’s full registration with the GMC (General Medical Council) would seriously dilute the quality of our current training programmes – such a move would be a mistake.

“In terms of time, to deliver the GMC’s required outcomes for graduates, UK medical school undergraduate programmes currently go beyond the minimum requirements set out in the European Union directive on the mutual recognition of professional qualifications (MRPQ). In addition, under provisional registration, the first year of the foundation programme provides vital opportunities for medical graduates to participate in and to provide diagnoses and treatment under close supervision. This cannot be matched by current clinical placements in medical school. It allows graduates to learn through experience and to increase their confidence in their abilities. It also creates significant opportunities for trainers to identify and support trainees who may be struggling with their clinical responsibilities.

“Doctors undertake some of their most intensive and useful learning during this year. The pressure of responsibility helps them to obtain crucial skills relating to real decision making, working under pressure and leading a clinical team. It is unrealistic to expect that changes to the undergraduate curriculum could offer an adequate substitute for this vital experience.”

Commenting on the proposals, Dr Anthea Mowat, BMA representative body chair, said: “This proposal just looks like ministers are willing to put medical training and patient safety at risk just so they can claim a win on Brexit.

“Training doctors takes time and experience. Patients want to be seen by a doctor who can provide them with the best possible care. Reducing their training time so that junior doctors have less expertise and less support than the current system provides will not achieve this.

“Ministers should focus on providing clarity on what the future holds for EU citizens and their families living in the UK so they don’t leave the NHS, instead of hashing together an ill thought out scheme to plug the workforce gaps that Brexit could worsen.”

A BMA survey of EEA (European Economic Area) doctors working in the UK found that almost half were considering leaving following the EU referendum result, with almost one in five having already made solid plans to relocate elsewhere. 

* BMA Brexit briefings are available here

* Read the full text of the letter here 

* British Medical Association https://www.bma.org.uk/

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