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NHS reforms threaten doctors' education

Reforms to the NHS could have a negative effect on medical education and training in England, according to junior doctor leaders

Planned reforms to the NHS could have a negative effect on medical education and training in England, according to junior doctor leaders.

Ahead of a debate between its members regarding the Health and Social Care Bill, the British Medical Association (BMA) reported comments from BMA junior doctors committee co-chair Tom Dolphin who expressed fears the proposals concerning education were an afterthought to other reform plans.

As outlined in the White Paper 'Liberating the NHS: developing the healthcare workforce', the coalition government is seeking to change the way doctors receive education throughout their career, criticising the current system as 'too top-down'.

Other 'deficiencies' described in the paper include education for medical staff being managed by postgraduate deaneries within strategic health authorities (SHA) in isolation from professionals in healthcare.

Reform plans summarised by the paper include making training more localised and flexible, as well as attempting to develop strong partnerships with universities and education providers.

However, Dolphin criticised the potential changes and their effect on patient safety, suggesting: "The idea that groups of hospitals will be able to manage training among themselves disinterestedly is difficult to imagine. How will that square with a focus on quality and safety, as we have with deaneries at present?"

He continued: "Deaneries are not perfect, but doling out their functions to as yet non-existent new bodies … is just asking for the ball to be dropped — and these functions are vital for supplying a significant chunk of the medical workforce."

The consultation process for 'Liberating the NHS: developing the healthcare workforce' runs up to March 31, 2011.

Representatives for junior doctors are to meet officials from the Department of Health next week to discuss plans desribed in the White Paper, according to the BMA.

10th February 2011

From: Healthcare

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