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 Royal College of Physicians – ‘Patient safety compromised by NHS understaffing’ 

Senior doctors have raised new concerns for patient safety in the NHS across the UK in a new report released today.

The fears are highlighted in “Focus on Physicians 2017 – 18”, the annual census of consultant physicians and higher speciality trainees (HST) workforce across the UK. The report has been jointly published by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, and the Royal College of Physicians of London.

The survey reveals that more than half of all consultants and two thirds of trainees reported frequent gaps in trainees’ rotas, with one in five respondents saying these are causing significant problems for patient safety in hospitals , while three quarters of respondents have highlighted the workaround solutions they are regularly having to find.

Other high-level findings include:

•             almost half of advertised consultant posts remain unfilled because of a lack of suitable applicants

•             consultants and trainees are working around 10 per cent more than their contracted hours. This equates to trainees working an extra six weeks and consultants an extra month unpaid a year

•             thirty-three per cent of the current consultant workforce are predicted to reach their intended retirement age in the next decade. Medical student places need doubling now to fill this and the gap left generally by doctors leaving the profession

•             satisfaction among consultants and trainees with working in general internal medicine remains significantly lower than with specialty-working Understaffing -  Royal College of Physicians

Commenting on the findings of the census Professor David Galloway, President of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow said: “I’m glad that the three Royal Colleges have once again joined together to produce this important piece of work. It’s vital that everyone involved in the NHS now reflects on these findings and takes all the action necessary to replicate best practice and address the challenges that this document has highlighted.

“What’s of particular concern is the finding that almost one in five consultants across the UK reported that rota gaps cause significant problems for patient safety in their hospital. This is an unsustainable situation which must be addressed as a matter of urgency.

“While we welcome short term actions being taken by governments across the UK to tackle workforce issues, such as the lifting of the cap on tier 2 visas for NHS staff, we need consistent and sustained action if we’re to address this situation in the longer term.

“Government, patients and the medical profession must work hand in hand if we’re to deliver the best possible NHS for all.”

Professor Derek Bell OBE, President of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, said: “As one of the three Royal Colleges that commissioned this report, we believe that Focus on Physicians provides an important snapshot of the state of play within the medical profession. We welcome, in particular, that 88% of consultants enjoy working in their chosen speciality. This indicates a high level of job satisfaction for consultant specialists. 

“Our report also highlights some challenges which must be tackled head on, and we support any actions which allow doctors time to care, time to train and time to research. We believe that these conditions are essential for job satisfaction, and ultimately for enhancing the care that our patients receive.”

The full census findings are available from and

For further information or comment on the contents of this report, please contact:

John Fellows, Public Affairs Manager, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow on 01412216072 or

Paul Gillen, Public Affairs and Policy Officer, Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh on 0131 225 7324  or

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