Top doctor shortage is risking ‘catastrophe’: Hospitals urgently need more consultants as they face huge backlog of treatment, medical union warns
- British Medical Association has warned of a huge backlog of treatments
- Problem exacerbated by consultants retiring early over workload and morale
- BMA recommends bringing in more medical students and making proper use of retired doctors returning to profession
Hospitals are battling a ‘potentially catastrophic’ shortage of consultants, as they face a huge backlog of treatment because of the pandemic, the British Medical Association warns today.
Consultants are retiring early because of their workload, poor morale and controversial pension tax rules which cause senior doctors to lose out financially when they take on extra work.
The BMA says the workforce needs to be urgently increased, if waiting lists and times are to be reduced, amid rising burnout and sickness absences.
The doctors’ union has collaborated with seven medical royal colleges and the Faculty of Intensive Medicine on a report looking to understand why consultants are seeking early retirement and a growing number of younger doctors are walking away from a career in the NHS.
Consultants are retiring early because of their workload, poor morale and controversial pension tax rules which cause senior doctors to lose out financially when they take on extra work
The report states that Covid-19 has added ‘significant additional pressure’, creating a huge backlog which is likely to increase in the coming months.
But even before the pandemic, six out of ten consultants intended to retire at or before the age of 60, under pressure from a heavy workload and bureaucracy, among other factors, a BMA survey found.
Dr Rob Harwood, chairman of the BMA consultants committee, said: ‘Consultants feel progressively more ground down by an ever-increasing workload and progressively less appreciative employers, so they choose to retire at an earlier stage than otherwise they might.’
The BMA is recommending measures such as bringing in more medical students and trainees, making proper use of retired doctors returning to the profession and making sure staff can seek support for their mental and physical health.
Dr Harwood said: ‘It is crucial that our recommendations are thoroughly considered, and detailed plans are drawn up to address this crisis both for now and in the future. Without that, we risk creating an NHS that no one wants to work in, the consequences of which are potentially catastrophic.’
The Department of Health said: ‘We now have record levels of consultants in the NHS – over 2,000 more than last year and over 14,000 more since 2010 – with this workforce group growing faster than any other. However, we are working to increase these numbers even further.’
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