More than half of GPs back mandatory NHS service for medical graduates, poll suggests

More than half of GPs think UK medical graduates should serve a mandatory period working in the NHS, although most say the four-year term proposed by health secretary Jeremy Hunt is too long, a GPonline poll suggests.

Just 32% of GPs support Mr Hunt's proposals that UK-trained medical graduates should be expected to 'work for the NHS for four years, just as army recruits are asked to after their training'.

A total of 42% of GPs believe that UK medical graduates should not be expected under any circumstances to work a mandatory period of NHS service, according to the GPonline poll of more than 300 GPs.

But the rest say that mandatory service of some form is a good idea, with a term of up to two years the most popular choice. Of the 58% of respondents who backed some form of mandatory NHS service, five out of six would support a a period of two years or more.

A total of 10% of GPs said service of up to one year was a good idea, while 22% said they would back up to two years. More than a quarter of GPs (27%) would support at least the four-year term of service proposed by Mr Hunt in his speech at last month's Conservative party conference, including 10% of respondents who would back an even longer period.

NHS mandatory service

A total of 3% of GPs who took part in the poll would support mandatory NHS service of more than five years for UK medical graduates.

BMA chairman Dr Mark Porter warned earlier this year that the government should focus on tackling the root causes of the NHS workforce crisis rather than forcing medical graduates to serve four years in the health service. Dr Porter warned: 'Demotivated, burnt-out doctors who don’t want to be in their jobs, will not be good for patients.'

Mr Hunt admitted earlier this month that he had failed to prioritise the GP workforce during his more than four years as health secretary.

But the GPonline poll findings suggest many GPs back the concept of mandatory NHS service for medical graduates trained in the UK.

Medical training

One GP respondent said: 'The NHS subsidises medical training and it is only right that some of that investment is returned. How long that should be is more debatable but I think the minimum should be four years and if you do not complete that then there should be a financial penalty (like people having to buy themselves out of the army if they don't complete their contract).

'A system could be devised to allow your service to be postponed for a year or two to allow young doctors to gain overseas experience which would benefit them and the NHS.'

Another GP backed mandatory service because it could 'help to attract graduates with the right attitude. But many repondents also argued strongly against the move.

One GP said: 'Indebted servitude is illegal. As we are paying fees we should not be bonded to the NHS, especially as they are the monopoly employer.' Another said if the government made doctors' working lives too difficult they should not be obliged to say.

Several GPs who took part in the poll said simply that the govenrment needed to do more to make the NHS attractive to doctors so that they did not feel tempted to move abroad.

Photo: iStock

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