Rise in emergency doctors

THE number of doctors specialising in emergency medicine has jumped by almost three-quarters in 10 years, according to new figures.

The number of EM specialists in the NHS increased by 71 per cent, from 3,183 in 2002 to 5,437 in 2012.

Numbers have risen at a faster rate than all other medical specialties combined. Over the same period, the number of doctors in other specialties went up by 47 per cent, from just over 65,000 to almost 95,500.

The statistics were revealed by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) in their latest report Focus On… Accident & Emergency.

It follows recent reports of a recruitment crisis in the specialty. A study by the College of Emergency Medicine in October found 63 per cent of EM consultants thought the job they were doing was unsustainable in its current form, with 94 per cent saying they work beyond normal planned hours.

The College expressed concern over the figures, saying the situation was “reducing the attractiveness of the specialty to new trainees” and making it difficult to retain doctors.

Responding to the HSCIC report, the College’s vice president Chris Moulton told BMJ Careers that the scale of the recruitment crisis still facing the specialty should not be underestimated.

He said: “The figures show how much catching up there is to be done and how hard we’ve got to work. Those figures are really only a snapshot of the present.” He added that around half of EM registrar posts had remained unfilled for the past three years while more than half of non-training posts had also been unfilled for several years.

“The first consultants were only appointed really properly in the 1980s, so it would be surprising if emergency medicine hadn’t increased faster [than all other specialties], because it started with almost nothing,” he said.

He said it was important for the specialty to become more attractive to trainees who are put off by the heavy workload and high pressure of the job. He added that the College has been working on ways to attract more trainees to the specialty, including making emergency departments more pleasant places to work and ensuring they offered a better service to patients.