Female doctors are being pressurised into cutting their maternity leaves short and prevented from working part-time when they return, the president of the Medical Women’s Federation has warned.
Dr Clarissa Fabre says, in a letter to The Guardian, that staff shortages are to blame following cut backs.
The GP says: “Women doctors now make up 58% of medical school intake. Some 43% of these doctors are under the age of 35; many will have children and will want to work part-time for a short period for reasons of childcare.
“With the present cuts in hospital funding, and the high cost of locums, colleagues are left to provide locum cover, often at very short notice and for little extra financial reward. Women consequently feel guilty when they take maternity leave, and feel they should return to work as early as possible. There is talk also of not allowing doctor parents to work part-time when their children are very young because of the shortage of doctors to cover the rotas.”
Her letter was prompted by the recent Royal College of Surgeons research which showed that the cost of hiring locums in the NHS is now topping £750m a year – following the introduction of a 48-hour week for juniors.
Fabre called for “urgent” action. “Astonishingly, there is talk of cuts in the number of junior doctors. The reason for this is that there are not enough consultant jobs available for those already coming through the system,” she said.
“So the chaos with hospital on-call cover will get worse, with gaps in rotas, insufficient suitably trained locums available, and existing doctors being asked to do more and more. We heard only recently of a young doctor left, unsupported, to cover too many patients, and being asked to do tasks beyond her level of competency. Not only is this bad for doctors, it is unacceptable for patients.”