11 July 2024

Ministers told to improve working conditions or risk losing top hospital doctors

11 July 2024

Hospital consultants are being “disenfranchised” as they feel “overworked and undervalued”, leading medics have warned.

The new Government must do more to retain senior hospital doctors, the Royal College of Physicians, Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow said.

It comes as a new census of consultants paints a picture of high workloads, concerns about vacancies and poor IT equipment taking up limited time.

Unless we urgently improve working conditions, we face losing many of our brightest and most committed

The royal colleges conducted a poll of 3,666 NHS consultants across the UK.

Findings include:

– Almost half (47%) said their enjoyment in their job has decreased over the last year.

– 39% of consultant physicians said they have an excessive workload almost all or most of the time.

– The top three factors negatively affecting wellbeing at work were clinical workload, poorly functioning IT and staff vacancies.

– More than two in three (69%) consultants said they were very or somewhat stressed at work.

– 61% of consultants said morale in their department had decreased in the last year.

– 59% reported at least one consultant vacancy in their department and 17% reported that another health professional has been appointed in place of a consultant.

– More than a quarter (28%) said that in the last year they had decided to retire at an earlier age.

The census highlights that the UK continues to operate with too few doctors

Dr Mumtaz Patel, vice president of education and training at the Royal College of Physicians, said: “The medical workforce is the lifeblood of the NHS.

“While we must train more doctors to meet demand, retaining the staff we already have is critical to getting our health service back on firm footing and delivering many of the new Government’s promised commitments on the NHS.

“Right now, we have dedicated staff working in a health service which simply doesn’t work for them. They are overworked, undervalued, job satisfaction is falling and many are clearly becoming disenfranchised.

“Unless we urgently improve working conditions, we face losing many of our brightest and most committed.”

Professor Andrew Elder, president of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, said: “The census highlights that the UK continues to operate with too few doctors.

“This puts a strain on our medical workforce through increased workloads and rota gaps, leading to stress and burnout in many instances.

“A focus on the recruitment and retention of doctors is of course vital.”

Mike McKirdy, president of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, said the NHS “cannot survive without a strong workforce” as he urged the Government to “seriously address the ongoing crisis in the NHS workforce”.

The Department of Health and Social Care has been approached for comment.

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