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Cutting medical training by years could harm patient safety, doctors warn

Leading doctors’ groups have warned that proposals to shorten medical training could seriously compromise patients’ safety.

Plans outlined in an independent review into specialist doctor training included shortening consultant training from between eight to 10 years to between six to eight years. Junior doctors would become fully registered immediately after completing medical school – a year earlier than at present – but would then spend four to six years in broad-based speciality training.

The British Medical Association has called on the government to “pause” such policy development whilst safety concerns are addressed and the changes are piloted in small studies.

A spokesman said many doctors were “concerned” by the proposals because they “wouldn’t be able to achieve the same necessary level of expertise for patients as at present”.

He told the BBC: “Changes affecting the future medical workforce cannot and should not be rushed. The government need to listen to the concerns raised by the BMA and other stakeholders now that the report is out.”

The Royal College of Physicians also expressed concerns, warning that shortening doctors’ training would “compromise both quality of patient care and patient safety”.

The Shape of Training review, chaired by David Greenaway of the University of Nottingham,- made 19 recommendations for changes in consultant training in its 2013 report.

At the time of publication, Professor Norman Williams, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, said: “It is unclear how, without significantly lengthening their training, surgeons in highly specialist areas such as cardiothoracic surgery or neurosurgery would acquire the necessary skills and experience in the proposed broad-based training programmes.”

A Department of Health spokesman said changes would only take place if they were in the “best interests of patients”.

He said no decision had been made on the proposals and that any changes would only take place appropriate consultation.

The review was sponsored by the General Medical Council.

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