Junior doctor brain-drain ‘running sore’ for 30 years

Steps are planned to stop the ‘brain-drain’ of junior doctors after they complained that inadequate training, job insecurity and the lack of a structured career path was driving them abroad.

Measures include informing medical graduates in advance where they will be based during the six-month rotations they undertake in their first two years of on-the-job training, allowing qualified doctors family- friendly flexible working and tailoring specialist training to likely vacancies.

The moves come against a backdrop of shortages of non-consultant hospital doctors, or junior doctors, who are leaving the country in such numbers that more than 100 of their counterparts from Pakistan will have to be brought in here from next month to fill vacancies.

There have also been chronic difficulties in recruiting consultants to fill key positions, with the protracted recruitment process that can run for more than a year considered partly to blame.

Health Minister James Reilly yesterday (Monday) published the final report of a working group set up a year ago to examine the problem which he described as being “a running sore” for the last 30 years.

The working group, chaired by Professor Brian MacCraith of Dublin City University, looked at doctors generally but also focused closely on GPs, public health doctors and psychiatrists. More than 10% of GPs in the public system are aged over 65 and 35% are older than 55 so the group anticipated many retirements.

Despite the opportunities those retirements might seem to offer, trainees considering this field said that they were put off by contracts that prohibited part-time and flexible working, and by difficulties securing funding to establish new practices.

They also showed a marked preference for training posts in larger surgeries with at least four or five other doctors, and the working group warned this would cause problems finding replacements for retiring lone practitioners in rural areas.

In relation to psychiatry, the group said under-resourcing of the multi-disciplinary community mental health teams was having a significant impact on the recruitment and retention of consultant psychiatrists and psychiatry trainees.

Mr Reilly ruled out attaching conditions to medical graduates requiring them to spend set periods of time working in Ireland after their training, saying it was more important to focus on the reasons they were leaving.


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