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Disheartened public health doctors tempted to leave


A BMA survey suggests public health is facing a recruitment crisis.

Penny ToffTwo thirds of doctors who responded are considering leaving the specialty and more than half of medical trainees are planning to move on.

The findings reveal concerns over fragmentation of the workforce following last year’s reorganisation of public health under the Health and Social Care Act, with worries over a lack of national leadership and increased bureaucracy.

Staff expressed unease over their ability to speak out independently, particularly those working in local authorities or the new organisation PHE (Public Health England).

There were also concerns over the future, with just 11.5 per cent of respondents believing there would be enough substantive consultant posts to serve the needs of the population 10 years from now.

Lack of support

Just 4.2 per cent of public health staff at local authorities and 13.5 per cent at PHE agreed professional support had increased since the reforms. 

BMA public health medicine committee co-chair Penelope Toff (pictured above) said: ‘It is particularly worrying that so many public health specialists are experiencing unsupportive work environments, where they feel their skills are not understood or valued.

She added: ‘The public has a right to expect strong, independent voices to speak out on issues of importance to their health and all public health professionals should be supported to do the work for which they were trained.’

The survey included 590 public health staff from across the UK, of whom 340 were doctors. 

Nearly half worked for local authorities, followed by PHE and then academia.

Medics reconsider

Overall, 65.3 per cent of medics considered leaving the profession in the past three years, compared with just over half of non-medics (see figure 5 below).

Public health survey findings

The same was true for 57.4 per cent of medical trainees, compared with just over a third of non-medics (see figure 6 below).

Public health survey findings

Reasons included not feeling professionally fulfilled, a poor work-life balance, their work environment not being sufficiently supportive, concerns over the deterioration of terms and conditions, and disagreements with the overall direction their organisation was going.

There was little overall support for the reforms, with those surveyed largely believing they had not benefitted public health or its staff.

 Read Findings From The Public Health Survey

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