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A long-term workforce plan is essential for the future of the NHS

21 October 2021

Responding to the Medical Schools Council (MSC) recommendation to increase the number of medical students by 5000 to a total of 14,500 graduating doctors per year, Dr Katherine Henderson, President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said:

“The NHS had widespread workforce shortages before the pandemic and these are at the root of the problems currently facing the NHS. The NHS continues to manage the biggest health crisis in its history while tackling an elective care backlog and managing a rise in demand for hospital services, all set against the backdrop of a decade of under-resourcing. Staff are spread more and more thinly, and it isn’t sustainable.

“In Emergency Medicine there is a shortfall of between 2,000-2,500 Whole Time Equivalent consultants across the UK. But further to this the challenges of the past 18 months have led to many Emergency Medicine (EM) doctors reconsider their employment: nearly half of EM consultants are considering reducing their hours; one-quarter are considering taking a career break or a sabbatical; 22% are considering retiring early. While nearly 60% of EM junior doctors are considering reducing their working hours; and nearly half are considering taking a career break or sabbatical.

“The College welcomes this recommendation to increase the number of medical student places. But as the statistics above highlight, we must also make sure that actions are taken to retain existing staff that are already reaching career burnout. The government must enact the Medical Schools Council proposal to increase the number of medical school places, which will begin to fulfil their pledges to the NHS. But the government must go further and publish a long-term workforce plan that includes measures to retain existing staff. Investing in and growing the workforce is essential for the future of the NHS.”

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