A winter’s tale - third RCP poll tells story of a service reliant on goodwill from a demoralised workforce

Ninety percent of those responding to a poll conducted by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) witnessed colleagues going above and beyond their jobs last winter.

Almost 80% of hospital doctors experienced staff shortages during the winter period, according to the RCP’s third 2018/19 poll, while 75% said they had seen demand increase. Two thirds said the workforce was demoralised.

Nearly 90% said they had witnessed colleagues going above and beyond in response to winter pressures.

RCP president Professor Andrew Goddard said:

There’s a certain weary familiarity to the results of our latest survey. But we shouldn’t simply accept that the growing demands of an aging population can be dealt with by staff continuing to go above and beyond their duties.

[...] the government needs to properly fund social care and address the shortfall in the number of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professional. Only then will the situation change.

Professor Andrew Goddard, RCP president

Instead, the Government needs to properly fund social care and address the shortfall in the number of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professional. Only then will the situation change.

The RCP continues to call for  a doubling of the number of medical students, expansion of the Medical Training Initiative and the regulation of Physician Associates.

This poll follows the first, in which less than a third of doctors (29%) reported that they had been asked to take part in planning for winter, and the second, in which almost 80% said delays to transferring patients out of hospital was the main pressure point.

Notes to editors

The RCP conducted its poll of fellows and members from 3-10 April 2019. In total 1,449 UK foundation doctors, trainees, consultants, and specialty and associate specialist (SAS) doctors responded. This is the third of three short surveys to be conducted this winter.

Full survey questions 

Which of the following did you notice in your organisation over the past four months? (choose as many as apply)

  • staff shortages across the team 79.3%
  • greater attendance / rise in demand for service 74.8%
  • demoralised workforce 67.7%
  • increased delays in discharge 53.3%
  • lower quality care 37.1%
  • reduction in services 28.3%
  • bed closures 13.8%
  • closure of services 9.4%
  • none of these 3.8%
  • other 2.1%

Compared to winter 2017/18, was there more or less pressure on you and your colleagues this winter?

  • About the same 42%
  • More 37.4%
  • Less 14.9%
  • Not sure 5.8%

Have you witnessed your colleagues going above and beyond to manage the pressure on your organisation this winter?

  • Yes 88.4%
  • No 11.6%