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Sports Doctors too few for 2012 Olympics

Medics state that there are insufficient doctors specializing in sports medicine today to meet the level of demand of the 2012 Olympics// that is to be hosted by UK.

Presently physicians are calling on primary care trusts to recruit one specialist each, for the treatment of treat sports injuries as well as to help tackle the rising problem of obesity.

According to the Royal College of Physicians specialists are the key to improving activity levels.

However PCT leaders say that the proposal was unrealistic given other demands.

The Royal College is planning to launch a new faculty of sports and exercise medicine.

Currently only three sports and exercise doctors are present on the register in London, Belfast and Nottingham although the specialty was backed by the government last year.

Professor Charles Galasko said at least 10 times that number was needed by 2012 and for the long term, each PCT needed a sports medicine specialist.

The specialists were supposed to look after local amateur and elite athletes, work at sports venues, help people with chronic diseases like respiratory diseases and Type 2 diabetes by promoting sport, and the prevent obesity by promoting exercise and as well as running wellness clinics.

According to Professor Galasko a pilot scheme in Oxfordshire had shown that having a sports specialist saved a PCT £140,000.

"Patients were seen by people with the right skills in the community; not going to A&E with their injuries then waiting for weeks for physiotherapy, then having a chronic problem that costs a lot to treat and means they need time off work."

He added that the length of the training program would mean that doctors would have to begin training next year at the latest to be ready for 2012.

Professor Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said: "The work of the speciality will be of wide national relevance in light of the prevalence of obesity in the UK.

"Increasing numbers of people will require professional guidance in order to exercise effectively to prevent or combat obesity."

However Dr Mike Dixon, chairman of the NHS Alliance that represents PCTs, said that the college's aim was something that could happen "in an ideal world" where there was a surfeit of funding and it would benefit the area.

He said, "PCTs are cash-strapped, and so they must show that ideas are cost-effective. In the current climate, this is one idea among many priorities. The question will be how it relates to paying for cancer drugs recommended by Nice."

He said PCTs should be working to help the public recognize the benefits of exercise and sport through current staffing. Each PCT has different priorities. In the same way Whitehall can't prescribe what all PCTs should be doing, neither can the college in relation to sport and exercise."

Nigel Edwards, of the NHS Confederation that represents health service managers, said: "Primary care trusts have a wide range of priorities to address - particularly the need to achieve financial balance which the government has made clear is the top priority.

"Currently, initiatives to improve long-term health of communities compete for resources with day-to-day service provision.

"They should not be considered as alternatives as both are needed."


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