Young doctors not vanishing

July 18, 1997

THERE is no evidence to substantiate claims that up to a quarter of British doctors leave the medical profession within a few years of graduating, new research finds.

On the contrary, young British doctors are not disappearing, although their career patterns may be changing.

In an editorial in the British Medical Journal, Isobel Allen, head of social care and health studies at the Policy Studies Institute in London, Chris McManus, professor of psychology at Imperial College school of medicine at St Mary's, and Peter Richards, medical director at Northwick Park and St Mark's NHS Trust, said they found no evidence that medical schools were recruiting students unable to stand the pace as junior doctors.

Instead they said that doctors apparently absent from records are often between jobs, taking time out to travel, working abroad or raising a family.

According to Dr Allen, doctor numbers are not being properly counted.

"People who are between jobs or working as locums or part-time are not being counted," she said.

"Before we build new medical schools let's look at the real numbers leaving and what's pushing them out."

Dr Allen continued:"People have different careers to what they used to, particularly women. Unless you understand the different demands today, you are going to be in real trouble."

The letter calls for a regularly updated medical census to assess the situation better.

Professor McManus said: "At the moment we are planning on the basis of numbers that are meaningless.

"Someone needs to do some serious calculations."

He added: "It costs Pounds 250,000 to fund a medical student. We are spending a fortune on doctors, but no one is funding research to see what is happening."

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