Are our roles as doctors being eroded by other healthcare professionals?

The UK government has recently announced plans to train nurses to perform surgical procedures. Qualified nurses will undergo a 2…

The UK government has recently announced plans to train nurses to perform surgical procedures.

Qualified nurses will undergo a 2 year training course to become surgical care practitioners, where they will be able to perform common procedures such as hernias, skin lesions as well as assisting in major surgeries.

The aim is to cut down NHS waiting lists.

These proposals are not new and surgical care practitioners already exist in the NHS.

In fact whilst I was working as a surgeon I came across a few nurses who were performing surgical procedures ‘independently’, yet under the general supervision of a Consultant surgeon.

So is this new announcement pose as a threat for doctors careers?

The immediate knee jerk reaction would be to say that this would remove even more opportunities for training surgeons whereby performing a large number of these cases should be the bread and butter for developing a sound portfolio.

It may also take away from the number of years doctors have to train to have the ‘privilege’ of performing surgical procedures.

You’re looking at a minimum of 8 years for doctors assuming 5 years of medical school, 2 years foundation and then learning how to competently perform procedures in core surgical training (CST) for 2 years (which is becoming even more difficult to achieve!)

I remember when I finished my CST – just about having ‘done’ one appendicectomy, a few circumcisions and hernias, and assisted in countless (rather dull) lap cases.

My journey to South Africa (SA) immediately after took me straight to performing laparotomies, amputations and full on bowel resections within a few months.

SA Medical students had better surgical skills than I did before I first started working in the trauma unit. Simply because they’d had the exposure and experience.

So with these new proposals what could this mean for doctors on the ground?

A lighter workload?

Ability to focus on the more complex cases?

Shorter waiting lists?

Or just more work due to the added responsibility of overseeing the practice of surgical nurse practitioners?

In my opinion it’s just another move to address shortfalls in NHS service provision which potentially removes valuable training experience for doctors.

And also encroaches on the fundamental role of a doctor within the healthcare ecosystem.

I predict that eventually becoming the doctor that we train to be as such conventionally today, will essentially become obsolete.

Health Technology, allied health professionals, AI and more will be a cheaper and more sustainable solution to service provision.

Supported by fewer and fewer doctors whose role will be defined by their own unique selling points.

For example, those with exceptional leadership skills, business acumen, great research reputation, and/or able to perform pioneering or complex clinical procedures.

Do you have any of the above?

So my question for you is – as the NHS takes further steps to future-proof itself, what steps are you taking future-proof yours?

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Abeyna Bubbers-Jones

Abeyna is the Founder & Director of Medic Footprints and a Consultant Physician in Occupational Health

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