Responding to the latest consultants' census from the Federation of the Royal Colleges of the Physicians in the UK1, Dr Vishal Sharma, BMA consultants committee chair, said:
"This survey paints a stark but all too real picture of the pressure on consultants right now and shows worrying signs of a worsening future.
"That 58% of consultants are reporting consultant vacancies – and almost seven in 10 saying there are gaps on trainee rotas – underlines the scale of staffing shortages, leading to excessive workload, with a third (34%) working more than their contracted hours due to covering for colleagues or vacancies.
"Consultants are clearly worried about the impact this has on patient care, but also the effect this has on doctors’ own wellbeing is bleak, with one in five being at risk of burnout.
"Worryingly, more than half of consultants want to work fewer hours in future – meaning the situation is likely to get far worse.
"We urgently need a workforce plan – and the Government needs to stop dragging its heels and get this published now, with independent projections and proper funding.
"In the short-term we need to keep the consultants we’ve got. These are our most experienced and skilled clinicians, leading services and departments, and without whom the NHS would collapse.
"A large majority (84%) say they feel valued by patients. If only it were the same for Government – who have cut consultant pay in England by more than a third in real-terms over the last 15 years and stripped the pay review process of its independence.
"This is why consultants are being forced to ballot for industrial action, and if successful, will strike next month. As this survey shows, we clearly care about patients, and the disastrous effect that a failure to recognise and value consultants is having on their care. If we do not act now, we will lose their skills, expertise and leadership, right at the time when we need them most."
Notes to editors
The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.
- For full details see the Royal College of Physicians website.