16 February 2009

Wales desperate for junior doctors

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According to Wales Online, Wales is suffering from a shortage in doctors because junior doctors are afraid of moving there.

At Cardiff’s University Hospital of Wales, despite their best efforts at recruiting, a total of 63 doctors' posts remain unfilled, and the driving factor behind the major shortage is based on unawareness.

Interviews have revealed that young doctors are worried about moving to Wales because there may be no Marks & Spencer's shopping centre, or they may be required to speak Welsh.  Some also had a poor perception of the level of medical training in Wales, thinking it would not bear well on their resume, and others asked whether Wales had a different currency.

Dr Ian Lane, medical director of the Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust, said the shortage is being exacerbated by the strict new UK immigration rules, which are affecting the numbers of Asian doctors who move to the UK.  Traditionally, the high volume of skilled immigrants in the medical profession worked well to cover the large numbers of British doctors emigrating to Australia and New Zealand in search of a better lifestyle.

"This has created a big challenge and hard decisions will have to be made about the future of services and where they are sited," Dr Lane said.

Of those that remain in the UK, British young doctors are overlooking Wales as their choice of destination. 

"There is an issue and a perception of Wales as a country which makes it difficult to attract young doctors and this is at a time when there is also a UK-wide shortage," said Dr Lane.

"They would often prefer to go to London or other English cities rather than Cardiff.  They are not looking to Cardiff or Wales as their top choice if there is a vacancy elsewhere."

Besides the shortage in junior doctors, there is also a shortage of 400 doctors across Wales in the major hospitals, and over the past year the number of applicants for posts in Wales has dropped by half to 1,970.  Of these applications, very few would have Wales as their personal preference for work, and would be likely to take offers elsewhere first.

The problem with finding middle grade doctors in Wales is not unique, with the regional areas of the UK also struggling to attract juniors.

"Even the major locum agencies in the UK are struggling to find suitable candidates with plenty of advance notice," said an A&E recruitment consultant in Swansea.


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