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Royal College of Physicians urges MPs in the West Midlands to address the NHS workforce crisis

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has written to local MPs to highlight the shortage of consultants and higher specialty trainees (HSTs) in their area and call for them to put pressure on the government to urgently address the NHS workforce crisis.

Over a third (41%) of senior doctor jobs advertised in the West Midlands have gone unfilled, according to data from the RCP.

From January 2018 to September 2019, 88 physician consultant posts in the West Midlands were advertised but only 52 (59%) of these recruitment processes were successful.

Hospitals also experienced rota gaps, which have a huge impact on staff morale. Almost three quarters of consultants (74%) and HSTs (73%) reported that rota gaps and vacancies had negatively affected their work-life balance.

The need for staff to cover gaps in rotas has meant that almost half of HSTs (46%) reported missing a training opportunity in the last year due to covering a gap, and over half of consultants (54%) reported receiving no compensation for covering gaps or vacancies.

This comes as more and more consultants in the West Midlands are reaching retirement age, with 41% of those currently working in the region set to retire over the next decade.

The RCP is calling on the government to take sustained action to immediately increase the supply of clinicians.

The RCP believes that one practical solution to developing our home-grown workforce is to double the number of medical school places to 15,000 per year.

Professor Donal O’Donoghue, RCP registrar said:

‘This data further highlights the immense pressures that the medical profession faces across the NHS.

‘Not only are patients and carers having to wait longer for care, but the wellbeing of doctors up and down the country is suffering due to the immense pressures that come from working in a service that is severely short-staffed.

‘In order to increase the number of doctors for the future, we’re calling on the government to double the number of medical students.

‘Only then can we move closer to providing a health service that is fair and timely for everyone, wherever and whenever they need it.’

We have also written to MPs across the region to share this data on the NHS workforce crisis in the area. Please get in touch with them directly for comment.

About the census

Each year the Medical Workforce Unit of the Royal College of Physicians conducts a census on behalf of RCP London, the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. The aim of the census is to provide the three colleges, their partners and others with robust data on the state of the consultant and higher specialty trainee physician workforce in the UK.

The census form was sent to 15,891 consultants and 5,826 (37%) responded. Removing consultants who were no longer working in the UK and adding new consultant appointments gave a total of 16,406 consultant physicians in the UK. For data from those who responded to the census, 5,638 eligible UK responses allows 99% confidence with a 1.4% error margin when extrapolating to the whole consultant physician workforce. The census form was sent to 7,363 higher specialty trainees (HST) and 3,018 (41%) responded, allowing 99% confidence with a 1.8% error margin, when extrapolating to the whole HST workforce.

Notes to editors

About the Royal College of Physicians

Everything we do at the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) is aimed at improving patient care and reducing illness. We are patient centred and clinically led, driving improvement in the diagnosis of disease, the care of individual patients and the health of the whole population, both in the UK and around the world. Our 36,000 members work in hospitals and the community across 30 different medical specialties and range from medical students to retired doctors. The RCP is the oldest medical college in England.