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Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Health Minister’s decision to extend free accommodation for junior doctors indefinitely is great news

It’s been confirmed this afternoon by the Welsh Assembly Government that all first year doctors training in Wales will now benefit from free hospital accommodation INDEFINITELY. This really is great news.

Most junior doctors reading this will no doubt be aware that Health Minister Edwina Hart had previously agreed to extend the provision of free on-site housing for F1 training grade doctors in Wales, until summer 2010. Well, this will now continue for the foreseeable future.

The decision follows the recommendations by an Accommodation Review Group (with strong representation by BMA Cymru Wales) supported by collaborative discussions between BMA Cymru Wales, the postgraduate deanery and the Welsh Assembly Government.

After the requirement for pre-registration doctors to be resident at a hospital was removed from the Medical Act last year, it led to protests by medical students outside the University Hospital of Wales, in Cardiff.

Without this free hospital accommodation, its estimated there would be an additional cost to newly-qualified junior doctors of around £4,800 a year, on top of average student debts of £20,000.

So I do think this decision demonstrates the Welsh Assembly Government's commitment to value the role of junior doctors in the NHS and will help to ensure Wales becomes the destination of choice for medical training. It is testament to the collaborative working between the profession and government as NHS Wales returns to the core principles on which the health service was founded.

The minister clearly recognises the importance of valuing junior staff in Wales. We have severe shortfalls in posts in Wales and this will go some way towards creating the culture which is necessary to attract the best medical talent for the future. This, associated with a number of other initiatives to improve training opportunities and academic medicine and research programmes, will bode well for the future of training in Wales and ultimately for Welsh patients.

BMA Cymru Wales will now continue, via the Accommodation Review Group, to ensure the quality of accommodation for junior doctors in Wales is improved to meet at least basic standards and to press for accommodation that does not, to be addressed as a matter of urgency.

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