Hospitals face staff shortages as junior doctors become pregnant
NHS Hospitals risk staff shortages because of the numbers of junior doctors becoming pregnant after getting their first secure job, medics have warned.
They have urged the Government to make better long term plans so that departments were not left struggling when several doctors go on maternity leave at once.
The British Medical Association’s annual junior doctors conference called on the Department of Health (DoH) to draw up long-term estimates which take account of the fact that the majority of medical graduates are now female, and likely to take maternity leave, while many would go part-time.
They said the DoH needed to draw up better plans, which might mean taking on more trainees, and pool jobs, so that departments were not left struggling when several women went on maternity leave.
Such plans should take account of the fact that women were more likely to consider pregnancy once they had the job security of a four-year specialist training post, at least seven years after starting medical school, she said.
The specialist registrar in genitourinary medicine said it was “incredible” that the health service did not make plans which took account of the growing numbers of women in its workforce.
Latest figures show 56 per cent of successful applicants to medical school were female, and the majority of doctors will be female by 2017, according to a report by the Royal College of Physicians.
Dr Draeger, who has a son Henry, aged 2 and a half, and baby Catherine, of six months, said: “When I was pregnant the first time, out of the 11 trainees on my rotation, four were pregnant at the same time. My consultant was surprised and I said ‘how can you be? You have appointed seven women in their early 30s to a four-year guaranteed job with maternity benefits. Of course some are likely to think it is a good time to get pregnant’.”
Under the current system, a junior doctor entering specialist training, after five years of medical school, and two years of general training, would be aged at least 25. Many are older, with some having taken gap years before or after university, or taken longer to find a training place in the specialist profession.
Dr Draeger said she did not want to see women being turned down for a job because they were of child-bearing age, but that national plans should be drawn up, with pooling of jobs regionally to ensure there were sufficient numbers of medics to avoid shortages in particular departments.
Dr Tom Dolphin, deputy chairman of the BMA’s junior doctors committee agreed with the calls for better planning, describing pregnancy as “entirely predictable at a population level”.
The conference in London last weekend heard that some medical specialities were hit particularly hard by sudden shortages of women, with 9 out of 10 women working on one paediatric specialist training rota becoming pregnant within a short period, and all planning to return to work on a part-time basis.
Tags: BMA, Doctors, DoH, GPs, Health Professionals, Junior Doctors, maternity, National Health Service, NHS, NHS-maternity-crisis, Sexual health