Posted by: Witch Doctor | April 1, 2007

Is the UK producing too many doctors? (3)



One of the problems with MTAS/MMC relates to the fact that thousands of junior doctors will be unemployed by the end of summer. Not hundreds, not a thousand but over 10,000 they now say!! How come 3 or 4 years ago they were crying out for doctors and now there are too many. This surely has to be either wrong or an example of political manouvering of the worst kind. It surely cannot be wholly due to stupidity or incompetence. It dosn’t make sense.

Or does it?

Parliament, Sir Liam Donaldson – CMO for England, and Medical Workforce Planning seem good places to start.

The text below is taken from an uncorrected transcript of oral evidence from a House of Commons Select Committee questioning Sir Liam Donaldson on matters relating to medical workforce planning on 11 May 2006.

Bold italics are my emphasis of what was said. Ordinary italics are my own comments.

Q108 Chairman:You heard the last couple of questions we had in the previous session. It is very difficult to relate to OECD levels and ratios about doctors to population as opposed to the actual needs of doctors within the system. Clearly this inquiry is going to be looking at the needs of different levels of clinical and others caring in the healthcare system. Is there no sort of optimum level within our system as opposed to saying that, if it is different to the OECD level or it is still lower than the OECD level, then there is still a need for doctors? Is that not quite the way we should be looking at it?

Sir Liam Donaldson: There are several benchmarks that you can choose. The most difficult benchmark is to predict future need which has always been unpredictable in the past and it is not bad. I have a fair amount, through representing the UK on the World Health Organisation, of insight into other healthcare systems and even at an impressionistic level, it is clear that many other healthcare systems are able to provide faster care than we do at the moment with a skilled competent doctor. We do pretty well and we are improving but the basic infrastructure of care in this country, which includes the number of doctors and nurses, is still expanding and it needs to expand further.

The Witch Doctor:OECD is the Organisation for Economic co-operation and Development. It is being suggested to the CMO that, by comparing medical staffing levels to population throughout Europe, he is using he wrong benchmark to assess medical staffing.

Q109 Chairman: You do not think with the expansion of medical schools that medical unemployment is inevitable?

Sir Liam Donaldson: No, I do not think so at all.

Q110 Chairman: Presumably at other grades as well, in terms of nursing and things like that.

Sir Liam Donaldson: I do not know so much about nursing, but as far as medicine is concerned, I do not think we shall see that. We have never seen it so far.

The Witch Doctor: The Chief Medical Officer will not be drawn into any discussion that suggests we are overproducing doctors indeed he says we are not, and indeed will need more.




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