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RSM President gives evidence in Parliament on retaining doctors

The President of the Royal Society of Medicine, Professor Roger Kirby, gave evidence in Parliament this week on how the UK could retain talent within the medical profession.

On Wednesday (11 May 2022), he told the Health and Social Care Select Committee that lifelong learning, stronger links between trainees and senior doctors, and a deeper connection between research and clinical science all could play a part in supporting doctors to remain in the profession within in the UK.

Professor Kirby said: “It costs something like a quarter of a million pounds to train a doctor and so many of them leave for New Zealand, Australia and other parts of the world, or give up medicine altogether and go into finance or management consultancy. This is really a tragedy but there are things that could be done.

“They say that the sum total of medical and scientific knowledge doubles every two years, so there’s a vast amount of new information coming down the line all the time. Medical knowledge needs to be constantly updated, upgraded and the techniques for education need to be changed to be modernised.

“Although we train our clinicians their clinical specialty, we don’t do enough to develop them holistically as people, in overarching areas like communication and negotiation skills.

“That’s where the Royal Society of Medicine could help.”

President of the RSM Professor Roger Kirby giving evidence at parliament

Referring to the system whereby trainee doctors rotate between disciplines, usually on a yearly basis, Professor Kirby said: “A year isn’t really long enough to establish yourself and establish trust in you. There’s a disconnect between the trainer and the trainee and I think we could change that quite easily.”

He suggested a two-year rotation and the allocation of a senior clinician as an educational supervisor and mentor for each and every trainee. He said: “It’s very complicated to find one’s way through the system and to expect them to do this on their own is really difficult. They need a guardian angel to help them.

“It wouldn’t be too complicated to establish that, it wouldn’t cost much, and many senior clinicians would probably be keen to do it because they now feel uncomfortably disconnected from the trainees themselves.”

He also recommended re-establishing a link with scientific research in medical careers. He said: “It used to be that at least a proportion of doctors would do some research, often getting a higher degree and many publications.

“You’d produce clinician scientists who would link in with the universities and come up with innovative ideas and products, which might stimulate the economy in the longer term.

“That’s been really disbanded so I think we need to re-establish a link with scientific research in the universities and clinical medicine, which I think will help to keep the best doctors in the UK, instead of them leaving to go to America, Australia or elsewhere.”

Professor Kirby was joined on the panel by Professor Colin Melville, Medical Director and Director of Education and Standards, General Medical Council; Dr Latifa Patel, Interim Chair, British Medical Association (BMA); and Professor Malcolm Reed, Lead Co-Chair, Medical Schools Council.

You can watch the full session on Parliament TV.

The Health and Social Care Select Committee is chaired by former Health Secretary, Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP.

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