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Decline in clinical academics will compromise NHS’ ability to improve quality

The Medical Schools Council report is worrying and bears out the feedback from our trainee members.

They tell us that there is a shortage of Clinical Senior Lecturer posts for which highly skilled and trained clinical academics can apply.

We agree with Prof Higham that this is an issue that involves not only medical schools but also the whole community of funders, employers and other bodies.

Our own survey has shown that the vast majority of academic trainees want to have a research or education component to their future careers, but this requires an ongoing shared commitment from the NHS and the academic sector to make available time and money.

Clinical academics are leaders in research and education in our universities and are vital to the healthcare innovation and wealth creation they generate.

A decline in the number of clinical academics will be mirrored by a decline in our ability to compete internationally and to improve quality in the NHS.

This is not just a hospital issue. There are insufficient opportunities for GPs to have an academic career or to have an identified academic component to their job.

There is a risk that the new junior doctor contract will worsen this situation, not improve it. GPs complete academic training after finishing clinical training so they will not be eligible for the academic pay premium.

This adds yet another disincentive to entering academic medicine and to creating the right environment for every patient.

Looking ahead, the Government’s proposals to increase medical student numbers significantly will mean that there is a need for more – not fewer – medical academics, in order to maintain the quantity, quality and reputation of teaching in our medical schools. Against this background the current trends are disastrous.

Furthermore the loss of talented medical academic staff from the rest of the European Union will make this situation even worse.

The UK needs to invest urgently in clinical academic staff.

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