Hospitals are relying too heavily on unsupervised trainee doctors for procedures that could be carried out by non-medical staff, according to the incoming chair of the postgraduate medical education training board.

Stuart Macpherson told HSJ that junior doctors often propped up services instead of being taught. "We need to move the pendulum away from service delivery being so dependent on trainees," he said.

Professor Macpherson, who takes up his new post this week, said postgraduate medical students needed to carry out procedures as part of their training but they were not always adequately supervised. They would benefit from more structured learning away from patients, he added.

In many cases, such as neonatal care, treatment could be provided by non-medical health professionals. He hoped to work with teaching hospitals to improve the situation.

The former surgeon said he did not want to see leadership training "massively expanded", as most programmes should focus on medical treatments. He welcomed the plan to merge the board with the General Medical Council by 2010, saying it would provide the specialist knowledge that was currently lacking.