It’s official. Core Psychiatry Training is on the ‘shortage occupation list’ which means there are not enough resident workers to fill all the vacancies.
“Catastrophic is the word I would use for the shortage we are now facing. We have always struggled to recruit significant numbers but this year is particularly acute. It has got to the point where you can count the number of UK doctors coming into it in tens, when we have hundreds of training posts to fill” says Prof Robert Howard, dean of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP) in the Telegraph. He goes on to say that due to the lack of competition, jobs are given on the basis of ‘appointability’ rather than great ability. This means that the standard of competence of those selected is just above the basic minimum rather than excellent.
One reason trainees may be reluctant to apply for specialty training in psychiatry is because of the misconceptions and stigma associated with the speciality. For instance, a study presented at the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ 2013 congress found that 26% of medical students and 47% of the public said they would be uncomfortable sitting next to a psychiatrist at a party for “they would know what you are thinking.”
Another reason may be that medical students and other doctors often think that treatments in psychiatry are “unscientific,” and that they lack the same evidence base as treatments in other specialties. Other myths include a sense that psychiatric treatment is inhumane and that psychiatrists resemble those portrayed in films such as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Silence of the Lambs.
While speaking with a young Consultant Psychiatrist it was clear that the prospect of working with very limited resources and support is what makes a career in Psychiatry very unattractive.
A huge recruitment drive is on. Medical students and junior doctors are being introduced to various possibilities within psychiatry early on in their education. Let’s hope it works.