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Government must commit to training more Emergency Medicine doctors to avoid staffing crisis

28 May 2023 

More than 700 new trainee Emergency Medicine doctors are needed to avert a staffing crisis in Emergency Departments – that’s according to new analysis published by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM).  

In the latest in its ‘Acute Insight Series’ RCEM, which represents more than 11,000 Emergency Medicine (EM) doctors and trainees across the United Kingdom, examines the current situation and recommends what needs to change if the issues across Emergency Care sector are to be resolved.  

The report entitled ‘Emergency Medicine Workforce in England’, and published today (28 May 2023), found that:  

  • Emergency Medicine trainee doctors currently make up 45% of the total Emergency Medicine workforce which poses a potential threat to service provision especially out of hours – overnight and at weekends.  
  • The pool of consultants is aging with 29% of RCEM’s consultant members now aged over 50. 
  • The length of time each patient is spending with specialist emergency medical staff has almost doubled.  
  • Many NHS trust are making up staffing numbers by employing locums, with significant percentages of their wage bill being used on this.  

The report also concluded that increasingly difficult working conditions and expectation placed on EM clinicians is resulting in burnout, low morale and high attrition rates. 

To ease pressure on existing staff, and to try and increase capacity and resilience RCEM, concludes that at least 120 additional Emergency Medicine training places must be created from 2024 and that this expansion should continue year on year for six years.  

RCEM President Dr Adrian Boyle said: “The system is stretched beyond capacity now and is only functioning because of the safety net of locum staff. We are seeing increasingly this reliance becoming the norm rather than the extraordinary.  

“We know from our own members that the cohort of emergency medicine consultants is aging. These are doctors looking to do fewer hours and wind down as they move towards the latter stages of their careers.  

“What must be ensured is that there is the next generation ready to take their place when they do retire.  

“You have to keep the topping up the team, and that is why we are urgently calling on the Government to commit to ensuring there will be at least 120 extra training places for EM doctors every year for at least six years.  

“We are still waiting for the long-promised NHS Workforce Plan. And it is becoming increasingly important that this is published as soon as possible to avoid the crisis in the NHS worsening; and that it contains specific numbers, details and costings. Nothing less would be a disservice to our members, their colleagues, to patients and the public.” 


Notes to Editor

RCEM Acute Insight Series: Emergency Medicine Workforce in England

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