This census of the consultant physician workforce in the UK conducted by the Royal College of Physicians shows that the number of doctors needed to meet patient demand continues to significantly outnumber the supply.
The Royal College of Physicians calls for the NHS to take the opportunity to address the consultant shortage as the UK begins to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Key findings of the census
- Only 52% of posts advertised were filled. For the past eight years, barely half of advertised consultant posts were filled, mostly due to a lack of suitable applicants.
- 36% of consultants described being in control of their workload only ‘sometimes’ or ‘almost never’. 38% said that they worked excessive hours or had an excessive workload ‘almost always’ or ‘most of the time’.
- 35% of consultants had experienced being undermined and 35% had witnessed a colleague being undermined, usually by managers or fellow consultants. This was more common among women and consultants from an ethnic minority.
- Consultants estimate that they work 11% more than they are contracted to work, mainly due to their clinical workload.
- 55% of consultants reported that their morale was worse during the pandemic and only 5% reported that it was better; 69% reported that morale was worse in their department and only 4% reported that it was better.
- The ratio of population size to number of consultant physicians varies widely. Regions with comparatively fewer consultants have the highest rates of unfilled advertised posts and locum consultants.