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Training budget cuts could reduce specialist numbers

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A cut in funding for trainee doctors could result in not enough specialists on wards, it has been claimed.

The Department of Health said reductions in some areas are being made to ensure deaneries are training doctors in those specialities required by the NHS.

But the move could mean hundreds of specialist training posts could be cut in the NHS, and specific areas that could be affected include surgery.

David Mahon, a surgeon working in Musgrove Park NHS hospital in Taunton, told BMJ Careers that the South West deanery was facing a 14% reduction in the budget for trainees.

He warned the cuts could mean there are too few doctors on wards.

“This is unprecedented,” he said. “Trainee numbers have increased year on year for as long as I can remember.

“My specialty is going to be harder hit than many other specialties.

“Trainees, although obviously in a training placement to be trained, also carry out a lot of service work.

“Much of this service is staffing the hospital 24 hours a day to receive emergency patients.”

He said the impact of the 48-hour maximum working week under the European Working Time Directive (EWTD) had already affected rotas.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: “We have been working with stakeholders to review the level of specialty training to ensure it meets the future demand for specialists in accordance with patients care needs.

“This will lead to reductions in numbers for some areas, for example surgery, but will also mean increases in others, like GPs.

“Strategic health authorities are implementing this to match the specific local needs of their region.”

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Readers' comments (1)

  • The number of trainee doctors exceeds the number required to meet the expected vacancies for trained specialists in the future in certain specialties. The future role of doctors is currently being debated and doctors who are unable to enter a specialty training programme may have to accept non training posts. These doctors will provide some of the service roles provided by trainees but their funding will need to be provided by Trusts and not the Deaneries who are currently responsible for a proportion of the cost of trainees.

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