Not for the first time I find myself wondering what the heck we are playing at in Britain. When it comes to medicine we have the finest Health Service in the world but we insist on both under-manning it and training few young British doctors. To become a doctor, our own ambitious young people often have to achieve unrealistic A-level grades and even with four A stars we hear that some are rejected and have to go abroad. (I don’t know on what grounds such students ARE rejected, but I do suspect a quota system combined with some degree of nepotism.)

As regards the hours junior doctors are expected to serve, there used to be a theory that extended hours were actually necessary to provide adequate training and experience. This was a dangerous practice and recent limits were intended to prevent tired young doctors making mistakes that could cost lives. If it really takes that many hours to train a doctor, surely their salaries as qualified juniors should reflect it? To be honest, I think the whole training thing was an excuse. It was a tradition that the juniors did most of the donkey work in hospitals, but I digress.

If the issue is that a service is required 24/7 that has no weaknesses in provision we need more DOCTORS, not more hours, and there is actually a realistic way to provide them. To me, as a mere musician and writer, this has a simple remedy. The government should do as follows:

1. Open more medical schools.
2. Create more individual study opportunities (places in medical training.
3. Prioritise entry to medical school for British nationals.
4. Provide opportunities for competent nurses to become doctors by allowing them to study and train on the job.
5. Make it a rule that anyone trained in Britain as a doctor must practise here for at least ten years, whatever their country of origin.

I think they would find there was less need to bully tired juniors into doing thirty six hour shifts and the weekend and graveyard shifts would be better manned.

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