Sunday, January 14, 2007

I want to complain

I don’t normally talk too much about money or politics, other people do it so much better. But this week I’m feeling like a bit of a whinge (even more than normal!).

This week the BMJ tells me that according to the BMA the
number of medical students has increased by nearly 10,000 in the last five years which seems rather inadvisable considering the current increasing unemployment amongst doctors in this country.

They also say that the number of medical academics, who are supposed to be teaching these students, has
decreased by 25% - not so good for the students. On the other hand, since the total spend on medical research has been cut by pooling the amount spent by the MRC and the NHS and reducing the total a bit, at least the academics (oh yes, they need to produce high quality medical research as well as teaching students) might not see their own cut of the funding fall too much. However, hospitals aren’t always keen to employ medical academics (yes, they need to look after patients in the NHS as well as teaching the students and producing high quality research) because (unsurprisingly) they can’t spend as much of their time on direct patient care.

The BMJ also tells me that the
average debt for a graduating medical student these days is £21,755 and if universities raise tuition fees this is likely to increase, so maybe we will come full circle when few people can afford to go to medical school, numbers fall and the remaining medical academics (if there are any) have less teaching to do.

This doesn’t strike me as a very good solution. We are spending a lot of money training doctors who may well end up unemployed (waste of money, not to mention the time and hopes of the individuals involved). We are allowing the numbers of medical academics to decrease (short-sighted cost cutting – medical academics contribute directly to patient care by looking after patients, training future generations of doctors and producing world class medical research which leads to improved patient care). We are reducing spending on medical research even though it is one of the things we can still do well in this country.

Meanwhile millions of pounds are being wasted on the
NHS IT system, NHS Direct, and Choose and Book. I know where I’d rather my taxes went.


At 13:51, Blogger The Angry Medic said...

Finally, someone else sees the problem.

A brilliant post. One that I will definitely link to in future.

At 21:24, Blogger Dr K said...


It's baffled me for a long time that universities are supposed to be encouraging students from 'less well-off' backgrounds to go and study medicine, and other subjects, yet it is costing more and more to go to uni and academic staff are disappearing. Even when I was a student and there weren't any tuition fees there were people in my year who couldn't afford to heat their flats for months (not becuase they were spending it on going out - they had to live on what was left of the grant plus a student loan and nothing from their families).

I went to a meeting about MMC and careers last year. They were talking about these brilliant academic career pathways to get more medics into academia. The problem is that with 21K of debt, who is going to want to take a pay cut for 3 years, shortly after qualifying, to do a PhD. One of my old colleagues is doing a PhD and is struggling to pay his mortgage etc - and his student debts are all paid off already!

At 01:38, Blogger Ashleigh said...

I thought this might cheer you up. I am a medical student in the US. The average debt for US med school graduates these days is between 100,000 and 200,000 dollars US (roughly 50,000-100,000 British pounds). Tuition increases every year by at least 1,000 dollars (standard practice for all US colleges and medical schools), and compensation is decreasing from government sponsored insurance programs. Also, funding for research is decreasing due to the current inflation and all around economic decline so fewer ppl are going into research positions. While I don't know how our salaries compare to yours, and while I think our unemployment rate for doctors is lower (constant rate of med school admissions pretty much assures that, I think we have our issues here too.


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