THE number of female doctors in the UK will soon equal that of men, according to a new report by the GMC.
Women now account for 44 per cent of all registered doctors but female medical students currently outnumber their male counterparts by 57 per cent to 43 per cent.
A GMC report on The state of medical education and practice 2014 also shows significant increases in the number of women becoming surgeons and specialists in emergency medicine. Female doctors now make up 49 per cent of general practitioners and 32 per cent of specialists.
Certain specialties continue to be dominated by female doctors with 79 per cent of obstetrics and gynaecology training places and 74 per cent of paediatrics training places taken up by women.
The report also found a shift in the pattern of overseas doctors coming to work in the UK. In the past, the largest source of overseas-trained doctors was south Asia but recently there has been a sharp rise in doctors coming from Europe. The GMC reports that more graduates from the European Economic Area (EEA) joined the medical register than other international medical graduates in 2013 and one in three came from southern Europe, many from Italy and Greece. This is thought to have resulted in part from changes in immigration rules which have made it more difficult for doctors from outside Europe to work in the UK.
Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the General Medical Council, said: "The face of medicine is changing and it is important that those responsible for workforce planning understand the implications. Of particular concern are the potential shortages in some specialist areas where there are diminishing numbers of doctors in postgraduate training and large numbers over the age of 50. Recruitment in some parts of the UK, especially deprived areas and more remote communities is also a significant challenge.
"The work being done by some of the medical royal colleges and others to boost recruitment and retention in some specialties is welcome and demonstrates that these issues can be tackled. For example, a concerted effort by the College of Emergency Medicine has helped to boost the number going into specialist training by a third between 2010 and 2013.
"It is notoriously difficult to predict future demand for doctors, but we do know that the needs of patients are changing, with many more living for years with long term conditions. We know too that the next generation of professionals will have different expectations."