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Face of UK medicine is changing: GMC

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NHS HospitalThe face of medicine in the UK is changing, with women breaking into traditionally male areas such as surgery and emergency medicine and more doctors than ever coming to work here from Europe.

The challenge for governments, educators and those who commission services must be to work together to make sure we have a medical workforce with the right skills and one which is adequately resourced, trained and supported to meet those needs.

These are some of the findings from a major report on the state of medicine in the UK published today by the General Medical Council (GMC).

The state of medical education and practice 2014 shows significant increases in the number of women becoming surgeons and specialists in emergency medicine. At the same time, the profession as a whole will soon have equal numbers of men and women doctors – already women account for 44% of all registered doctors and more than half of medical students are female.

There has also been a shift in the pattern of doctors from overseas coming to work here. In the past, the largest source of overseas-trained doctors was south Asia, but recently there has been a sharp rise in doctors coming to work here from southern Europe.

This may have been caused, in part, by changes to immigration rules which have made it more difficult for doctors from outside Europe to work here. The economic downturn in southern Europe and the expansion of the European Union in Eastern Europe are likely to be behind the increase in European trained doctors seeking to practise in the UK.

Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the General Medical Council, said:

‘The face of medicine is changing and it is important that those responsible for workforce planning understand the implications. Of particular concern are the potential shortages in some specialist areas where there are diminishing numbers of doctors in postgraduate training and large numbers over the age of 50. Recruitment in some parts of the UK, especially deprived areas and more remote communities is also a significant challenge.

‘The work being done by some of the medical royal colleges and others to boost recruitment and retention in some specialties is welcome and demonstrates that these issues can be tackled. For example, a concerted effort by the College of Emergency Medicine has helped to boost the number of emergency medicine practitioners joining the specialist register by a third between 2010 and 2013.

‘It is notoriously difficult to predict future demand for doctors, but we do know that the needs of patients are changing, with many more living for years with long term conditions. We know too that the next generation of professionals will have different expectations.

We hope that this data from the GMC will help inform future decision making. The challenge for governments, educators and those who commission services must be to work together to make sure we have a medical workforce with the right skills and one which is adequately resourced, trained and supported to meet those needs.’