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Doctors now more likely to train and work close to parental home

Trend adds up to uneven distribution of doctors around the country, warn authors

Caroline White

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Doctors are now much more likely than previous generations to train and work in the same region they lived in before they started medical school, indicates research published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.

Various factors might explain these trends, but they are likely to add to the uneven distribution of the medical workforce around the country, and may not be sustainable in the long term, warn the authors.

The study looked at the geographical mobility of more than 31,000 doctors trained in the UK from 1974 to 2008.

It shows that more than a third (36%) attended a medical school in their home region, and almost half (48%) undertook specialty training in the same region as their medical school.

One in three (34%) hospital consultants and GP partners settled in the region where they had lived before becoming a medical student. And for almost one in four (18%), family home, medical school, place of training, place of first career post were within the same region.

Trevor Lambert, a statistician from Oxford University, who led the research, said that this is a relatively new trend.

“Compared with similar data we reported 15 years ago, the relationships between location of career post and training post, between career post and medical school, and between career post and original family home have strengthened in recent UK cohorts.”

This may reflect increasing moves to structure specialist training programmes in non-teaching hospitals, he suggests. But the increase in percentages of doctors who stay local may also reflect shorter periods of training, making doctors less inclined to move to career posts far from where they have trained.

But one of the most striking characteristics in the trends was the increased likelihood that doctors from more recent than older cohorts settled in the broad location of their family home, for their first career post.

“Career expectations and practice patterns of younger doctors differ from those of older generations. Younger generations are more likely to take into account the preferences of their spouses than older generations,” he commented, adding that greater emphasis in recent years on “work-life balance” may have prompted more doctors to stay close to their parents.

But he warned that this could be a problem for patients, with uneven distribution of doctors around the country.

“We are already aware that the equity of distribution of general practitioners in England has fallen since 2002,” he says. “Reduced geographical mobility may not be sustainable: doctors have to go where the jobs are.”

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