Medical students or young doctors dropping out has become a serious issue. According to them: 'Doctors want to practise medicine but they also want a life.'

While economic and social factors such as workload, pay and status influence whether doctors stay in the profession, these factors need to be taken into account in understanding the drift from medicine. Research carried out just before vocational training for general practice became mandatory showed that in North Thames, general practice in particular was a route out of medicine.

GP registrars and in particular one-year registrars were interviewed in-depth in their surgeries using qualitative techniques. The data suggested that the one-year traineeship in general practice was for some a last attempt to forge a medical identity and try to develop a career within medicine.

Many GP registrars were disillusioned with hospital training, with its heavy on-call commitment and workload leaving little time for pursuing other interests. In the words of a female one-year registrar: 'By the time I came to the end of my job at the hospital in obstetrics and gynaecology, I was ready to give up medicine... I was ready to try anything that would give me time... to pursue other interests.'

Ruth Shaw

London NW11