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BMA Calls for Flexible Working as Number of Women Doctors Swell

The NHS must provide more flexible working, the BMA says today (Saturday 23 June, 2007), as new figures show that female doctors embarking on NHS careers outnumber men by almost three to two.

A cohort of 435 doctors who graduated from UK medical schools in 2006 will be surveyed by the BMA for the next ten years. Almost three in five (58%) are female, compared with 51% in 1995, when the BMA launched a similar study of medical graduates. This is in line with UCAS figures which show that 58% of doctors who graduated in 2006 were female.

The BMA survey shows that one in five (21%) of female doctors anticipates working part-time for the majority of their careers, compared to one in 25 men. Almost half (48%) of women doctors say they want to train less than full-time at some point, compared to 15% of men. Two thirds of all the doctors surveyed (80% of women and 50% of men) expect to take a career break at some point.

The BMA is calling for increased funding for flexible training schemes which allow junior doctors to work less than full time, and will debate the issue at its annual conference next week. Dr Jo Hilborne, chairman of the BMA Junior Doctors Committee, says:

The medical workforce is changing rapidly and the NHS needs to wake up to the needs of its staff. Its not just the fact that more and more women are entering medicine - all staff should have the right to work-life balance.

Although the survey was carried out before the MTAS recruitment crisis blew up, it shows that many junior doctors are demoralised and uncertain about their careers. Around one in seven (15%) say that on graduation their desire to practise medicine is either lukewarm or weak. Fewer than a fifth (16%) are confident that they will automatically get a job on completion of their training.

Dr Hilborne says: These are times of terrible anxiety for junior doctors. Those that do succeed in getting posts will have to work antisocial hours in an NHS thats increasingly saddled with unnecessary bureaucracy and government interference. Its to their credit that so many doctors are still enthusiastic about their careers.

The survey also shows:

Most of the doctors were in debt when they graduated. The average amount owed was 20,798 with the highest level of debt standing at 80,000.
People are now more likely to enter the medical profession at a later stage of life - the average age of respondents was 27, compared to 24 in 1995. One of the doctors was 47 when they graduated.
15% of the doctors had already worked in a different profession before entering medical school.
The most popular specialties on graduation are general practice, general hospital medicine, and surgery.

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