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Looking back at medical school I can vividly recall the lectures on paediatric medicine; the images of the sick child, the tiny yellow cannula, the teddy bear stickers, the play therapists, the child’s smile at the end... I was instantly fascinated. The paediatrician was my hero. I think most doctors can recall this moment; it might have been before they even entered medical school, perhaps during their first job, maybe even as a patient.
Another personal milestone at medical school, was when I read a research paper from 1964. It discussed a simple concept which has become the basis of a diagnostic test of a disease which affects 1 in 2500 people in the UK.
Paediatric research – was that my calling in life?
Fast forward almost a decade and here I am; an academic paediatric trainee. Like many of my colleagues I have aspirations about the kind of consultant I’d like to be and the type of training that will get me there.
I might want to do some more research, spend some more time in the lab, maybe take some time out of training and do a PhD. It’ll come as no surprise that as a woman, I may need to take maternity leave; I may need to go less than full time. As a normal human being, I may even get sick. I might need to take sick leave. I might need a phased return.
What then, DDRB? What do you propose happens to me then, DDRB? With one poorly projected report you’ve shattered my hopes DDRB... the hopes of many aspiring female academic trainees.
The NHS stands proud on its pedestal as one of the worlds’ leading healthcare services. With a strong army of academics behind us Our NHS is proud to lead internationally on many aspects of medical care; from cancer treatment to medical devices, from disease screening to prevention. In order to continue our successes we need to continue to nurture our junior doctors, our researchers; tomorrow’s leaders.
Unfortunately, Our Government and the DDRB have set the motions to destroy Our NHS’ success.
As a medical academic, you’ll need to take time off from your full time clinical job, to complete a research project; an MD, a PhD maybe. When you return to your clinical job, instead of celebrating your contribution to medicine, your research, your experiences, your new skills; your Government will penalise you –
‘Recommendation 1: Pay should be based on stages of training and actual progression to the next level of responsibility, evidenced by taking up a position at that level.’
Put simply, if you take four years out of training to complete a PhD, when you return your pay will not have progressed. Your knowledge and skills may have. Furthermore, as a PhD student you will have already undertaken a significant pay drop.
But wait, there is a possible saving clause –
‘Recommendation 14: Flexible pay premia should be used to recognise, where appropriate, academic trainees that take a break from training to undertake a relevant MD, PhD or other relevant postgraduate qualification, not
only for academic work related to an individual’s CCT, but also when the work benefits the wider NHS and the continuing improvement of patient care’
But wait again, what does, ‘where appropriate,’ mean? And what if you’re not on an academic pathway?
With all the uncertainty, could you afford to take the risk? Could you afford, to gamble your car, your house, your family, your bills, on the off chance that your research is deemed to, ‘benefit the wider NHS and the continuing improvement of patient care?’
Now what about women in academic medicine – another rare breed? Your BMA together with the Medical Women’s Federation has championed the role of Women in Academic Medicine. They’ve also highlighted the concerning low numbers. So what does Our Government and The DDRB propose?
‘Recommendation 1: Pay should be based on stages of training and actual progression to the next level of responsibility, evidenced by taking up a position at that level’
Wow. A double hit. If you take maternity leave or have to work less than full time, you take a further pay hit.
Now ask, yourself, could you afford to be a woman in academic medicine, who might take maternity leave, or go less than full time, take time out for a PhD all whilst training on an 8 year paediatric training programme?
The female paediatric academic trainee – extinct.
So DDRB, I now ask you –
Why are you discouraging women in academic medicine?
Why are you punishing our medical researchers?
Why are you halting our academic successes?
Why should Our NHS, Our Doctors and Our Patients suffer because you got it wrong?
Latifa Patel is an ST2 NIHR paediatric academic clinical fellow in Manchester
Visit the BMA website for more information and updates on junior and consultants contract
You are absolutely right!