2016–17 census (UK consultants and higher specialty trainees)

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Focus on physicians is the 2016–17 census of the consultant physician and higher specialty trainee (HST) workforces in the UK.

The census was conducted by the Royal College of Physicians' (RCP’s) Medical Workforce Unit (MWU) on behalf of the Royal College of Physicians of London, the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. We sent the census electronically to all UK consultants and HSTs in post on 30 September 2016.

The MWU independently verified consultant headcount by nation, specialty and demographics by checking with specialty representatives, the GMC and with consultants’ work locations. Data for the full HST workforce were obtained from the Joint Royal Colleges of Physicians Training Board (JRCPTB), and from an electronic census sent to all trainee physicians.

Headlines from the census

  • The proportion of female consultant physicians has again increased, and over half of higher specialty trainees (HSTs) are female. 
  • Less than full time (LTFT) working has also increased. Data show that consultants who had recently retired (but subsequently returned to work) predominantly worked LTFT.
  • Over three-quarters of consultant physicians and HSTs are UK graduates, and the overwhelming majority are UK citizens.
  • Nearly half of advertised substantive consultant posts were not appointed to. This is likely the result of awarded certificates of completion of training (CCTs) being much lower than advertised posts.  
  • Over one-fifth of consultants reported that trainee rota gaps occur ‘frequently’ or ‘often’, and stated that these gaps have a significant impact on patient safety.
  • Physician associates were seen more frequently in specialties with significant rota gaps.
  • Both consultants and HSTs reported high levels of satisfaction with specialty work, but substantially lower levels of satisfaction with general internal medicine.

To get the data and learn more please download Focus on physicians or investigate the census yourself with our helpful census data tools.

Get involved in the MWU’s work

The MWU will be undertaking some short surveys of representative portions of the workforce over the year. Our aim is not to survey any individual more than once (in addition to the main census) and to have a quicker turnaround so that we are more responsive to present-day and future challenges affecting the physician workforce. 

If you would like to be involved in our work, please email us on mwucensus@rcplondon.ac.uk.