Being a doctor is about more than money
LAST weekend, I was speaking at Medicine Calling at Leicester University — an event to encourage youngsters thinking about medicine as a career to consider psychiatry.
There is an acute need for more psychiatrists. Figures from the Royal College of Psychiatrists show that because there are now so few, patients face a postcode lottery to see one.
The College is warning that the number of medical students specialising in psychiatry ‘has all but flatlined’ — despite Government plans to have 570 extra consultant psychiatrists by 2020/21. Whole teams are now without consultants. In what other area of medicine would it be acceptable for patients not to be seen by a specialist?
I think a large part of the problem is the notion, fuelled by the stigma attached to mental health patients, that working in this area is a poor career choice. Mental illness represents losing control, unpredictability and social deviance, so it’s assumed that you must be a bit ‘mad’ to work in this area.
The situation has also been made worse by the introduction of tuition fees, so a medical degree is now a commodity that students have paid for — an investment rather than a vocation. It’s become commonplace for students to make career choices on the basis of the potential for lucrative private work — and there isn’t a lot of this in mental health — rather than an area that interests them.
It’s a sad situation because mental health is an area where interventions really can save lives, and it can be one of the most rewarding and stimulating areas of medicine.
Every day is different, and I love going into work. We must all hope the next generation of doctors can be persuaded to give it a go.