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Data on the medical workforce from training to retirement

To understand the future of the medical workforce, it is important to look at current data on the medical workforce from training to retirement.

Foundation to internal medicine training

For the foundation programme exit survey there was an 87% response rate among foundation year 2 doctors (F2s) who finished in August 2018.[1] Reasons for not entering a training post included: entering a service appointment (18%) and taking a career break (14%).[2]

There was a 77.5% round 1 fill rate for the 1,333 internal medicine training posts offered in August 2019.[3] This was worse than for every other specialty, except paediatrics.

Internal medicine training to physicianly higher specialty training

A total of 1,530 doctors started core medical training and acute medicine (acute care common stem) training in 2017.[4]

Of those doctors, 1,030 started physicianly higher specialty training in 2019.[4]

Physicianly higher specialty training doctor to substantive (long-term) consultant post

In the RCP census of doctors who achieved their certificate of completion of training (CCT) in 2017, 78% of those that had worked less than full time (LTFT) at some point got a substantive post, while 69% of those who worked full time throughout got a substantive post.[5]

In the 2018 consultant census 43% of advertised consultant posts with an Advisory Appointments Committee (AAC) went unfilled due to a lack of suitable applicants.

Consultant physicians to retirement

The RCP 2018–19 census states that there are 16,406 consultant physicians in the UK in 2018–19,7 and it is expected that 25% of the current consultant workforce will reach 65 years of age in the next 10 years (43% will reach 60).[6]

There are approximately 40,000 doctors under the age of 65 registered with the General Medical Council (GMC), who have not applied for a licence to practise.[7]


  1. General Medical Council. Training pathways: analysis of the transition from the foundation programme to the next stage of training. London: GMC, 2017. https://www.gmc-uk.org/education/reports-and-reviews/training-pathways (Accessed 19 December 2019).
  2. Foundation Programme. F2 Career Destinations Report 2018. Available at: https://foundationprogramme.nhs.uk/resources/reports/
  3. Health Education England. Specialty recruitment: round 1 – acceptance and fill rate. HEE: London, 2019. www.hee.nhs.uk/printpdf/our-work/medical-recruitment/specialty-recruitment-round-1-acceptance-fill-rate 
  4. Royal College of Physicians. PSRO co-ordinated recruitment. State of recruitment report. Version 0.7. 04/07/19
  5. Royal College of Physicians. Medical CCT class of 2017. 2018 survey results. London: RCP, 2018. www.rcplondon.ac.uk/projects/outputs/2018-survey-medical-certificate-completion-training-cct-holders-career-progression (Accessed 20 December 2019).
  6. Royal College of Physicians. Focus on physicians. Census of consultant physicians and higher specialty trainees 2018. London: RCP, 2019. www.rcplondon.ac.uk/projects/outputs/focus-physicians-2018-19-census-uk-consultants-and-higher-specialty-trainees (Accessed 19 December 2019).
  7. General Medical Council. Key stats on the medical register. https://www.gmc-uk.org/about/what-we-do-and-why/data-and-research/medical-practice-statistics-and-reports (Accessed 20 December 2019).