Senior doctors have warned that the NHS could reach “breaking point” within the next few years due to growing demands on the service.
Financial pressures could result in junior doctors not being given training posts within the NHS, while the overall number of places at medical school could plummet.
This is in spite of added burdens on the health service, including more hospital admissions, limits on how many hours doctors can work, and the fact that people are living longer than ever, according to the study from the UK Royal Colleges of Physicians (RCP).
It warned that staff dedicated to looking after very ill people are facing particular strain.
According to Dr Andrew Goddard, RCP director of medical workforce, the combination of factors was “adding further stress to a system which may reach breaking point within the next few years.”
In 2009, the number of consultant posts created across the UK increased by 10.2%.
However, financial pressures on the NHS means that rise may not continue and there are “growing fears” of a lack of training posts for young doctors.
Dr Goddard said: “We have already seen a drop in the number of new posts being advertised in 2010, and although we have enough doctors in training to develop a consultant-delivered NHS, these doctors need to have jobs to go into if this service is to be realised.”
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