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Survey reveals ‘workforce crisis’ in NHS

The latest annual census of physicians in the UK has been released, revealing “continuing pressures on the medical workforce and NHS systems.”

The survey, compiled by The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow and the Royal College of Physicians of London, details that the pressures are demonstrated by ongoing problems with rota gaps, unfilled posts and high levels of reported sickness absence.

Key findings from the report include data such as: 40% of consultants and 63% of higher Speciality Trainees (HSTs) said that rota gaps occurred on a daily or weekly basis. Only 7% and 12% respectively said such gaps did not lead to significant patient safety issues.

Further, 45% of consultants and 61% of HSTs reported that a trainee was absent due to sick leave during their last on-call shift, particularly foundation year two and core medical trainee (CMT) doctors.

55% of HSTs also reported they had felt pressured to cover rota gaps and 26% said they were encouraged to take on the work of more than one doctor almost always or most of the time when covering a gap.

The NHS has been spread thin for a long time, with performance statistics from earlier this year showing “strain on an already stretched system”.

Professor Derek Bell OBE, president of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, said that the census “highlights the immense pressures that exist in the NHS across the UK with rota gaps, unfilled posts and high levels of sickness absence all having a significant impact on our medical workforce and, ultimately, patient safety.

He continued, “Physicians work hard to mitigate the impact of rota gaps but these pressures contribute to increased need for consultant presence, poor morale, and insufficient time for service development. Put simply, the supply of physicians is not keeping up with demand and this needs to be addressed urgently if we are to continue to recruit and retain a world class workforce to deliver the best possible patient care.”