Be­ing a doc­tor is about more than money

Daily Mail - - News -

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.

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