NHS must adapt to female workforce, says RCPE

THE NHS must introduce more flexible working patterns to accommodate the increasing number of female doctors, the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE) has said.

The College has raised concerns that a failure to increase opportunities for working flexibly in hospitals could potentially have “significant implications for the NHS and the delivery of patient care”.

The number of female doctors in the UK has risen by 37 per cent since 2001, while the number of male doctors has dropped by eight per cent. New figures also show that 42 per cent of all doctors are women – 28 per cent of hospital consultants and 47 per cent of GPs.

Women have traditionally taken up a higher percentage of GP posts but a similar trend is emerging in the hospital sector, the RCPE report has found. It added that increasing numbers of male doctors are also seeking to work less than full time.

Dr Alison Brown, chair of the RCPE’s Less Than Full Time Working Group, said: “Over the last decade the NHS has become much more successful at attracting women and there has been a significant change in the shape of the medical workforce, with more female doctors than ever before coming into medicine.

“While the NHS has tried to respond to this by increasing the opportunities to work and train flexibly this has not been at a sufficient rate to meet the rapidly increasing demand. As a result, there is now a real threat that talented female doctors within the NHS may be unable to continue in their chosen career once they have young children, and that females may be put off from applying to medical school.

“This potentially has significant implications for the NHS given the extent to which female doctors now make up the workforce and it is essential that the NHS now works to adapt to the changing workforce.”

Dr Brown said that doctors who did not work full-time were at a "distinct disadvantage".