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Royal College of Physicians publishes ‘Positives from the pandemic’

A new RCP Cymru Wales report highlights the importance of training doctors locally in north Wales as a solution to the workforce crisis.  

Following a recent visit to north Wales, the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) vice president for Wales, Dr Olwen Williams, has congratulated consultant physicians and junior doctors on the way they have adapted to new ways of working since the COVID-19 pandemic.

A new RCP report, Positives from the pandemic, tells the story of a new groundbreaking clinical research facility in north Wales, and the role it played in COVID-19 vaccination trials. It highlights work being done with patients to make ensure that their voices are better heard. It also discusses the importance of encouraging and mentoring local children in north Wales into careers in medicine.

There is a well-known consultant doctor shortage across the whole of the UK, and the problem is particularly bad in north Wales. In 2021, over half (53%) of advertised consultant physician posts in north Wales were unsuccessful, and in most cases there were literally no applicants for the job.

Without long-term measures to increase the NHS Wales workforce, the health service will be unable to cope with the needs of an ageing population and a rise in clinical demand, especially in rural and remote areas.

With major gaps in both trainee and consultant-grade rotas in every hospital in Wales, there are simply not enough Welsh-domiciled students applying to medical school – encouraging and mentoring local sixth-formers into the new medical school in Bangor will be a vital part of the long-term solution.

Dr John Glen, honorary senior lecturer at Bangor University said:

"Here in north Wales, the local SEREN network identifies state school children with excellent GCSE grades and invites them to a welcome event with universities showcasing engineering, law and medicine. Those who want to become doctors are put through their paces: assignments, work experience, practice exams, mock interviews. It’s rigorous.

"This is about helping the hundreds of state school children in north Wales with A grades who simply don’t see medicine as a viable option. They don’t understand the system, they don’t know how to play the game during the medical school interviews because they don’t have the parents or the support network to teach them. They don’t have the sense of confidence and self-belief that some children get from private school.

"It’s a lot of work, but definitely worth it. In the last cohort before COVID-19, every sixth-form student who completed the full 2-year programme in north Wales got an offer for at least one medical school."

Dr Olwen Williams, RCP vice president for Wales said:

"The new north Wales medical school at Bangor University should open its doors within the next five years and could provide us with a fantastic opportunity to reduce inequalities and ensure that talented students from north Wales can train to become doctors closer to home. In the longer term, this will help to reduce inequality, bring down waiting lists and improve workforce morale.

"Sometimes we forget that during difficult times, amazing things can happen. Hearing about the stories in this report was inspiring. Sometimes we don’t blow our own trumpets like we should, but we need to publicise the excellent work that’s being done across north Wales. To tell you the truth, I feel so much more positive, and I got my mojo back, after listening to the speakers at this event."