Medics fear PhD neglect

January 24, 1997

SENIOR medics have called for a re-evaluation of postgraduate medical training amid fears that recent reforms could bleed the lifeblood from academic medicine.

The draft report of the University of London workshop on the future of the clinical lecturer grade says that recommendations made by the Calman report in 1993 could dissuade talented junior doctors from academic careers as clinical lecturers in university medical schools.

Many senior clinical academics believe that the Calman reforms, now being phased in, could be interpreted too strictly, leading to rigid training structures geared to producing consultants rather than the in-depth PhD research, which is required to produce top flight medical academics.

Workshop member Alan McGregor, of King's College school of medicine and dentistry, said: "The danger is that the Calman report may be being used as a bible in which every word is taken literally."

Among the perceived potential problems is the shortening of the UK training specialist programme. The move was necessary to bring the UK, where specialists take about seven years to complete their training, into line with Europe.

Under the new system, doctors will have to gain their certificate of completion of specialist training in five years, which provides for only one year of pure research.

The workshop's draft report calls for the continuation of something like the present system which allows sufficient time for research for those pursuing academic careers. Postgraduate deans, departmental heads and the NHS are urged to support moves to make research more attractive to young doctors. It also calls for support from the Medical Research Council and medical charities in providing start-up funds for research.

Brendan Hicks, dean director of postgraduate medicine and dental education for the South Thames region, said: "As with all these things there will be potential for misusing this structure but the support of the postgraduate deans is geared towards using the potential that is there. I do not think that the Calman changes are inimical to academic medicine, rather the problems are due to change itself."

The University of London hopes to produce a final report by the spring and, based on that, to start a national initiative to bring about the most desirable approach.

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