Nearly half of UK consultant posts unfilled

  • Date: 19 November 2021

THE proportion of unfilled medical consultant posts across the UK is at its highest level in almost a decade, according to the results of a new census.

The UK consultant census is conducted each year by the Royal College of Physicians London, the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.

This year it found that nearly half (48 per cent) of advertised consultant posts across the UK were unfilled last year (up from 36 per cent in 2013). This was due either to a lack of any applicants at all (49 per cent) or a lack of suitable candidates (34 per cent).

The census also found that 36 per cent of consultants described being in control of their workload only ‘sometimes’ or ‘almost never’, and 38 per cent said that they worked excessive hours or had an excessive workload ‘almost always’ or ‘most of the time’.

Over half (55 per cent) of consultants reported that their morale was worse during the pandemic, and 35 per cent had experienced being 'undermined'. The same percentage had witnessed a colleague being undermined, usually by managers or fellow consultants. This was more common among women and consultants from an ethnic minority.

Dr Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said: "We’re being hit by a perfect storm of high demand for services and not enough staff. This can’t go on. The fact that so many posts were unfilled because there were no applicants shows the supply of doctors falls woefully short of demand. We need a clear commitment from government to publish regular workforce projections so that we know how many staff to train to meet future demand.

"We know that medical school places need to be rapidly expanded, and our census results today show precisely why – vacancies among consultant physicians are at their highest level in seven years. It takes 10-14 years to train as a doctor. We need long-term projections on the workforce we will need in future so that our health service is fully equipped to deal with future patient demand."

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