Letter: Why young doctors are turning away from general practice

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The Independent Online
From Dr John Valentine

Sir: The article on the future of general practice ("Death of the family doctor", 23 February) was most timely. The training scheme for general practice based in Bath attracted 50 or more applicants per place in the late Eighties. This year there has been less than one applicant per post. This is for a scheme in a "desirable" area of the country, recently given a very positive reaccreditation by the professional regulators of GP training.

The decreasing number of doctors in training for general practice who are likely to become family doctors in Britain is actually artificially inflated by the inclusion of a significant number of EU doctors who come to train here.

Your article touches on many problems in recruitment to medicine. Why is it that high-achieving A-level students are queueing up to enter medical schools while, seven or eight years later, some 15-20 per cent of those who gain entry are dropping out, disillusioned with the system? Why is it that this is happening apparently only in Britain among Western nations?

General practice is not only the cost-effective cornerstone of the NHS. It is still, at its best and freed from the excess of stress currently attached to it, one of the most rewarding careers imaginable for those who care for people, enjoy the mix of medical art and science and who want never to be bored.

It is in the interest of patients, doctors and government to make every attempt to revive the family doctor.

Yours faithfully,

John Valentine

Department of General Practice

Royal United Hospital