BMA report

Consultant workforce shortages

Our reports look into the issues facing the consultant workforce and what actions need to be taken by UK governments and employers, now and in the future, to ensure consultants are retained in the NHS.

Location: England Scotland Northern Ireland
Audience: Consultants
Updated: Thursday 27 January 2022
Topics: NHS delivery and workforce, COVID 19
NHS Structure Article Illustration

The NHS workforce faces a perfect storm of consultants choosing to retire earlier, a significant proportion approaching retirement age and a growing trend of younger doctors walking away from their career.

COVID-19 added significant additional pressure on the workforce with doctors working long hours, in new settings, whilst risking their own lives. Now the NHS is facing a growing backlog of unmet need on top of the existing staffing and resourcing shortages.


The report from England

Given the length of time it takes to train a consultant, immediate action needs to be taken now to grow the workforce. Delay now will impact the NHS and its ability to deliver timely access and effective services to patients in future.

  • Steps employers can, and should, take now.
  • A deep-dive into the pressures facing the consultant workforce.
  • Medium and long-term solutions with case studies.

The report from Scotland

Concerted action must be taken to retain consultants in Scotland’s NHS as it deals with and then recovers from the pandemic. We have brought together evidence to show there is a worsening crisis in the consultant workforce which demands urgent action.

  • Data collected by BMA Scotland shows consultant vacancy rate may be more than double the official figures.

  • BMA survey shows that more than 45% of consultants who responded are considering retiring in the next five years.

  • Calls for a focus on recovery and wellbeing for all staff who have been responding to the pandemic.

The report from Northern Ireland

The ongoing high rates of vacancies in our health service are a huge concern for doctors. The BMA made FOI (freedom of information) requests to examine this issue in more depth.

  • Results from the FOI exercise.
  • How a vacancy is defined.
  • Examination of the departmental reported vacancies.
  • Analysis of the results from the FOI exercise and next steps.
  • Short, medium and long-term solutions
  • Why more consultants are needed
  • Retention of consultants
  • Time scales and solutions
  • Good practices
  • Productive work for staff not able to work in face-to-face roles
  • Policy principles for employer’s retention policies