RCP consultant vacancy figures show just how short hospitals are of the doctors they need, says BMA

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Last reviewed: 16 November 2021
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Responding to the Royal College of Physicians’ annual consultant census1, which found that almost half (48%) of advertised consultant posts across the UK were unfilled last year, Dr Vishal Sharma, BMA consultants committee chair, said:

“These figures show just how short our hospitals are of the most experienced and highly-skilled doctors. Without enough consultant doctors in hospitals, patients do not get the specialist care they need and more junior staff are deprived of essential mentoring and teaching.

“The BMA, alongside organisations like the RCP, has long warned of the mounting medical workforce crisis in the NHS, and earlier this year we estimated that England alone has around 50,000 too few doctors.

“Our members are consistently telling us that they’re working under the most pressure they ever have, and with vacancies as high as they are this means remaining doctors having to do even more hours and shifts to try to meet patient need – often to the detriment of their own health and wellbeing, which in turn encourages more doctors to consider leaving the NHS.

“The Government urgently needs to come up with answers to solve this crisis – both in the short and long-term. The increasing numbers of medical students is positive but far more needs to be done to ensure we have the numbers of doctors we need both in the short term and in the future. It takes at least 12 years to train a consultant so it is essential we do everything possible to retain our existing workforce. The absurd and damaging pensions taxation issues that force senior doctors to reduce their hours or even retire early must be urgently addressed – something the Chancellor failed to do last month in the Spending Review. We also need to support the health and wellbeing of our workforce, who are reporting feeling exhausted and burned out, and address the decade of real-terms pay cuts that have seen the take-home pay of the average consultant fall by 30%, to ensure we can hang on to these valuable clinicians.

“In the longer term we need the Government to be held accountable for ensuring safe staffing in the NHS – laying out how many staff we need and how it plans to meet this. The BMA, alongside our colleagues in the Royal Colleges, influential think tanks and charities, is therefore supporting an amendment to the Health and Care Bill in England, being tabled by Jeremy Hunt for Report Stage, that places a duty on the Secretary of State to publish regular independently verified assessments of the workforce numbers needed now and in the future to meet the growing needs of the population.

“A woeful lack of planning left the NHS vastly under-doctored even in ‘normal’ times, but in the grip of the pandemic, the impact of this has been brought into devastating focus.”


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.

  1. Please contact the Royal College of Physicians for more information.