Measure for measure

Yes to more medical students but no to rush throughs

Reading time: 3 min

Unite regional secretary Sarah Carpenter, seconded a motion on the government’s measures to increase medical students on behalf of Unite.

Addressing the conference she said, “As our health service buckles in the face of chronic overwork, burnout and the crisis of staffing levels, Doctors in Unite will of course welcome commitments to double medical school places.

“But,” she asked, “how does a commitment turn into a reality?  Does the government close its eyes and wish really hard? Or should they perhaps have detailed plans about training places, and retention of senior doctors to support that education, before they even think about raising student numbers? Should they maybe have a clear understanding of the shortage specialities, including general practice, and where to direct these extra professionals? 

“To paraphrase a great comedian, the Government are saying some of the right words, but not necessarily in the right order.

“The quality of that training is such a cause for concern.   Away from health we have seen the growth of apprenticeships which often aren’t worthy of the name.

“The complete lack of detail in the NHS workforce plan means we have no reason to be confident that new and untested internships or apprenticeships will be any better.

“It is alarming that the new internships will fast-track students into hospitals, cutting down the current five or six-year medical degree which is already considered fast-paced.

“Our health members need reinforcements, and they need them now,” she continued.

“Yet,” she said, “we cannot – we must not – plug the staffing gaps with undertrained and underprepared students who are rushed onto the frontlines.  They deserve better, and we, as patients, deserve better.

“Everyone working in healthcare has a duty to put patients and the people they care for first, and protect their safety.  This motion calls on us to join health workers as they stand up for patient safety, and we should not think twice about doing just that,” she concluded.

By Amanda Campbell

Pic by Mark Thomas