By Olive Carterton
Pressures faced by consultants and their reported impacts on patient care are highlighted in the latest census from the Federation of the Royal Colleges of Physicians in the UK.
Around one-in-five doctors (18%) almost never feel in control of their workload and 42% of consultant physicians did not take all their annual leave last year – usually because they could not find cover or were too busy to arrange it.
The findings came as The Medical Defence Union (MDU) backed calls for immediate action to be taken to support dissatisfied and burned-out doctors, following the publication of a GMC report.
The ‘State of medical education and practice’ report found more doctors than ever were thinking of leaving the workforce and had taken hard steps to do so.
Three-quarters of doctors (70%) reported working beyond their rostered hours on a weekly basis in their NHS jobs and just half said they were satisfied in their work, down from 70% in 2021.
How many will completely retire, take up private practice or try to do more of it remains to be seen.
Most say widespread NHS vacancies are significantly impacting patient care, the study from the three medical royal colleges representing UK physicians revealed.
The Royal College of Physicians, Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow’s annual census found 58% of physicians reported consultant vacancies in their departments.
Forty-four per cent reported having an excessive workload almost always or most of the time.
Dr Sarah Clarke, president of the Royal College of Physicians in London, said: ‘It is alarming that so many of our dedicated doctors feel that their workload is out of control.’
The census found 28% of consultant physicians were working less than full time. It projects that by 2027, this will rise to one third.
The proportion of men and women working less than full time is similar until age 35, where they diverge.
Over 49% of female consultants aged 35-44 are working less than full time compared to 10% of male consultants in that age bracket.
This year’s census survey was sent electronically to 19,187 consultant physicians and 5,244 (27%) responded
Dr Caroline Fryar, MDU director of medical services, said the GMC report should be a wake-up call to employers, the Government and regulators. ‘We know from our own survey that well-being among doctors is very low and that our members are really struggling.’