Over 60% of family doctors will retire over the next ten years. By 2020, this will lead to a shortfall of 2,000. Talking to 24 Heures, Pierre-Alexandre Bart, professor of medicine at UNIL says “There is no time to lose”. Adding that UNIL has increased its training capacity from 110 to 120 medical students to 160 a year and the number of graduates has almost reached 220. This number though, is not enough to meet demand.
The Federal Council, announced in February that CHF 100 million would be allocated to increasing the number of annual masters graduates from 1,100 to 1,300. A system that allows those without a degree in medicine to study for a masters in medicine is also planned. Those with a solid qualification in biology would qualify.
Why not make it easier to qualify? Only 18% of students pass the first time. Pierre-Alexandre Bart says they could not train them all. Switzerland has a particular shortage of generalists. We need more doctors, not just neurosurgeons. Adding places is not enough to solve the problem. We need to doctors, not researchers. Training now includes compulsory work experience of one month with a family doctor. I plan to talk with the Institut of family doctors to see how we can make the profession more attractive, said Mr Bart.
Switzerland was ranked seventh equal by the OECD in 2013 for number of doctors per 1,000 of population. Switzerland, which has 4 doctors per 1,000, was well ahead of the UK (2.8) and the US (2.6). To reach these numbers Switzerland relies heavily on foreign doctors.
General Practitioner (GP) numbers are Switzerland’s key challenge. A report published late last year by the deans of the faculties of medicine of the Universities of Basel, Bern, Geneva, Lausanne and Zurich, says that without any doubt, there will be not enough general practitioners, something that will not be fixed by only increasing the number of Master students. It depends what kind of doctors they become. The report said in some fields there are too many doctors.