Home » Projects » Consultant physician wellbeing survey 2017

Consultant physician wellbeing survey 2017

In April 2017 the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) undertook a short wellbeing survey on behalf of the RCP, the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.

The survey asked questions about wellbeing that had not previously been explored in the annual census of consultant physicians. It was sent to one-third of substantive consultant physicians currently at work in the UK (with a response rate of 30%).

Key findings

  • More than 50% of the time, 78% of consultants felt valued by patients and 70% by colleagues/staff, but only 26% felt valued by the hospital (only 20% of female consultants). Only 35% of consultants felt fulfilled more than 50% of the time.  
  • Self-determination is often linked to wellbeing, and only 53% of consultants felt they had largely determined their job plans.
  • There was considerable interest in more flexible working (with 39% wanting annualised hours, 33% a sabbatical) as a means of improving career satisfaction.  
  • 52% of respondents reported that the perfect dream job plan would entail more research, 41% said more teaching, and 47% said more time with patients.


The most popular age of retirement was 60–64 years. This concurs with 62 years as being the most common age of retirement seen in the consultant census 2016.

The most common drivers to retirement were:

  • personal life (70%)
  • job plan including on-call, and pressure of work (52%)
  • increased stress (49%)
  • pension arrangements (43%)
  • increased admin work (32%)
  • uncertainty about the future of the NHS (31%).

Making a difference

The census asked consultants what they would like to have said about them upon retirement, to get an indication of what an individual personally values. Clinical comments were reported by 6% of respondents but the most common response was that they had ‘made a difference’ in one of two ways:

  • at a personal level: being a hard worker or a good doctor (57%); or 
  • in a patient-centred way (eg ‘missed by patients’) (34%).

Consultant physicians reported that they wanted to spend more time with patients (47%), suggesting that they felt valued by them. They felt considerably less valued by hospitals, and stated they would like to spend more time in research and teaching (41%). Some of the ways that consultants said that their working lives could be improved would be the ability to work with annualised hours, with the option of a sabbatical. If working patterns were altered with 7-day working then this could be incorporated. Over their working lives, consultants really want to ‘make a difference’.