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Specialist Accident and Emergency Doctors

Volume 556: debated on Tuesday 15 January 2013

11. What steps he is taking to improve the recruitment and retention of specialist accident and emergency doctors. (136842)

That is a long-standing problem. Recognising that emergency medicine is moving towards becoming a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week service, the Government have set up an emergency medicine task force to tackle the problem and encourage more recruitment of middle-grade doctors to A and E specialties.

Might it be time for us to take a leaf out of the Department for Education’s book, and consider offering scholarships or bursaries tied to doing the job for a certain number of years in order to improve recruitment and retention in this difficult area?

Bursaries are already available to medical students to encourage recruitment to the medical profession. As for the specific question of A and E recruitment, at the end of last year I published—alongside the report from the Doctors and Dentists Review Body on the consultant contracts and clinical excellence awards—a report on junior doctors in training. That has given us an excellent opportunity to consider what rewards and inducements may be available to encourage junior doctors to move into A and E and other specialties in which the work is particularly intensive and the meeting of staffing requirements has posed a long-standing challenge.

The Government say that the number of doctors in the NHS has increased by 5,000 since they came to power. When did those doctors start their training?

We know that it takes five or sometimes six years for doctors to complete their medical training. The key difference is that under the plans left by the last Government not all doctors were guaranteed places of work in the NHS after completing their training, whereas the present Government are ensuring that they find NHS jobs. That is why we have 5,000 more doctors in the NHS. The same applies to midwives: under the last Government they were not finding places after completing their training, but under this Government they are, and there are 800 more of them.