The majority of students in the UK are currently approaching their finals exams. Whilst this is certainly one of the most stressful points during medical school, the imminent offer of a job and the excitement of starting work is often the motivation that helps us through those evenings and weekends of endless revision. However, unfortunately for this cohort of students, a crisis of resources, staffing and morale has taken hold of the NHS.
Stories of half of junior doctors taking time out of training, black alerts across hospitals and the trials that come with working under an imposed contract dominate the headlines. What should be one of the most exciting points of medical school has unfortunately become bittersweet with apprehension around patient safety, working conditions and fair pay for evening and weekend work.
However, the most worrying of stories is the forecasted number of vacancies within the foundation programme. The latest data predicts another rise in the number of vacant posts to 444 this year, which will mean real gaps on rotas which can all too often lead to reduced educational opportunities, the removal of value added jobs such as research and crucial skill-building specialties such a primary care jobs, all in the name of service provision. This can only lead to further alienation and disillusionment during two of the most influential years of our careers. Add to this the recent drop in the number of students applying to medicine and the perfect storm in recruiting and retaining the brightest and best within the profession looms.
A commitment from the government to protect and recruit to the existing foundation jobs may be difficult to deliver on but will be essential to make medicine the rewarding career we were promised it would be as optimistic applicants all of those years ago. A commitment to properly fund the system within which we work, recognising the need for more flexible career options and respecting the importance of education and training could turn the tide on the current trends and help restore the excitement that we should all be feeling as we take our first steps as new junior doctors beginning our careers.
Ryan Samuels is deputy chair for education on the BMA medical students committee