The Government must treat today’s report from the General Medical Council (GMC) as a final warning, says the BMA. In response to ‘The state of medical education and practice in the UK: Workplace experiences 2023’, the Association is calling for the Government to urgently issue its long-delayed Long Term Workforce Plan to address the workforce crisis and take immediate steps to restore pay and tackle deteriorating working conditions.
The report shows that in 2021 – when the NHS was close to collapsing under the pressure of the Covid pandemic – just over half of doctors were working beyond their scheduled hours, with a third feeling unable to cope with their workload. These figures jumped to nearly three-quarters and just over a fourth, respectively, in 2022. The BMA predicts that these figures will further increase as doctors buckle under the weight of ever-growing waiting lists, which now sees 7.4 million patients waiting.
The report raises concern not only regarding doctors’ wellbeing, but also the direct knock-on effect that the workforce crisis is having on patient care. It shows that nearly half (44%) of doctors found it difficult to provide their patients with the care needed, at least once a week. It also found that half of doctors with training responsibilities experienced compromised patient safety or care, on a weekly basis.
The BMA is concerned that this situation will worsen if the Government do not deliver on its long-unmet promise to address the workforce catastrophe. The Association is demanding action is taken before the UK sees a mass exodus of doctors from the NHS.
Dr Latifa Patel, BMA workforce lead, said:
"For some time now the BMA, alongside numerous medical bodies across the UK, have demanded, pleaded, urged, and warned the Government to take action and address the workforce crisis the health service currently faces. Our policy makers are responsible for the NHS and their refusal to do what is required to keep the NHS viable is now at the point of becoming this Government’s notorious legacy.
"In 2021, 17% of doctors were at a high risk of burnout and this jumped to a quarter in 2022. I dread to think what the rate will be for 2023. Year-on-year pay cuts, chronic staff shortages, undoable workloads, poor workplace practices and environments, and subsequent poor job satisfaction has all resulted in over 15% of our NHS doctors taking hard steps to leave our NHS. These are not threats but rather show that doctors are putting plans in place to leave – the Government cannot afford to let this happen. The fact that this number has risen since 2020 – when Covid pressures nearly collapsed the health service – is a statement in and of itself.
"Doctors are working far beyond a level that is considered safe and as such are simply unable to provide our patients with adequate care, all while our leaders sit back and ignore a multitude of alarm bells. The Government must treat this report from the GMC as a final call for it to deliver on the Long-Term Workforce Plan. If the workforce crisis is not addressed urgently then we fear that the NHS will experience the largest exodus of doctors in its history."
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.