Doctors' hours and research: the space-time continuum

Yesterday I spoke at a meeting of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH).  There was an outstanding presentation before mine by Kate Baker, a young academic paediatrician, about what inspired her to go into research.  She talked about the importance of charismatic role models in attracting young doctors to science.  But also highlighted the importance of doctors being given time and money (and not necesarily a lot!) to pursue research.   And it is not just at the beginning of their career but further along too, I learnt.

Today the normally mild-mannered Royal College of Physicians took a potshot with its blunberbuss at the increasing pressures on the NHS that would be caused by the growing demand for its services and the lack of a strong consultant workforce to help cope with this challenge. 

But more pertinent still was the BMA statement also today about pressurised NHS organisations squeezing the amount of support they give to doctors to pursue what are known as professional activities not directly related to clinical care (what they call SPA time) including research. 

The BMA has produced an excellent booklet called ‘Quality Time’ which gives a host of examples of how doctors have used this time to improve services, for research, and to improve the knowledge and understanding of colleagues and patients.  I particularly liked this quote:

‘One of the problems with decreasing consultants’ SPA time is that they won’t have time to innovate.’