'Flexible' work call for women doctors

women doctors
Image caption The Royal College said 42% of all doctors were women

The NHS should make flexible working more available in order to respond to the increasing number of female doctors, a medical group has said.

The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE) said the move was necessary to maintain patient care.

It said the number of female doctors in the UK had risen by 37% since 2001.

But the RCPE warned there was a "real threat" that women may be unable to continue in their chosen career once they had young children.

The Royal College said 42% of all doctors were women - 28% of hospital consultants and 47% of GPs.

It said that traditionally a higher percentage of women doctors had worked as GPs, due to the more flexible working arrangements available.

But there were now 46% more female doctors registered in their foundation year training in 2010 than males.

The RCPE said this could have significant implications for the NHS if greater emphasis was not placed on adjusting working patterns and career structures.

Dr Alison Brown, chair of the RCPE's Less Than Full Time Working Group, and an NHS Consultant, said: "Previous lack of career flexibility within medicine, especially in the higher intensity specialties such as surgery or cardiology, led to many women limiting their career choices to those specialities where family-friendly working patterns were possible.

"As with other professions and sectors, both male and female doctors are now increasingly seeking an improved work/life balance rather than sacrificing their personal lives for the sake of their career."

She added that the NHS had tried to respond by increasing the opportunities to work and train flexibly but it had not been at a "sufficient rate" to meet the rapidly increasing demand.

"As a result, there is now a real threat that talented female doctors within the NHS may be unable to continue in their chosen career once they have young children, and that females may be put off from applying to medical school," Dr Brown said.

"This potentially has significant implications for the NHS given the extent to which female doctors now make up the workforce and it is essential that the NHS now works to adapt to the changing workforce."

Dr Brown said that doctors who did not work full-time were at a "distinct disadvantage".

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