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New paediatric consultants can’t find posts

RCPCH said more posts are needed if consultant-delivered care is to be a reality

Ingrid Torjesen

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Ten per cent of newly qualified paediatric consultants in the UK work overseas and almost a quarter are working in non-permanent contracts, according to a survey by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

The survey found that 22% of newly qualified consultants were on locum contracts compared with only 3% of doctors working in paediatrics as a whole.

A third of newly qualified consultants move after training to work in a different region, with two-thirds of these saying they are forced into moving in order to find a suitable post.

The ‘CCT Class of 2011-2012: where are they now?’ report highlights growing concerns that the number of doctors qualifying for consultant posts is fast outweighing the number of posts available.

While 96% of the 2011 cohort are currently working as consultants, only 81% of the 2012 cohort have found consultant posts. The report predicts that between 2014-2019 there will be an average yearly surplus of 150 newly qualified paediatric consultants.

The report also highlighted a fall in the number Supporting Professional Activities (SPAs) in consultant contracts – activities which allow consultants to carry out research, supervise and appraise trainees and keep their clinical skills up to date. The recommended number of SPAs is 2.5 – with the minimum being 1-1.5 for continued professional development alone. Findings show that over 18% of newly qualified consultants have contracts with 1 or less SPA, and the situation is particularly worrying in Scotland, where the figure rises to 58%.

Dr Carol Ewing, workforce officer at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “There is a very real workforce problem looming. Put simply, within a couple of years, if the status quo remains , we will see too many consultants for the number of posts available, forcing some out of the country and others into non-consultant posts. The obvious solution might to be reduce the number of trainees, but the fact is the paediatric workforce is already under immense pressure to meet the demands of a growing population, and to meet the needs of 24/7 seven day a week care delivered at the front line by senior clinical staff.

“To deliver the best possible health service for children, we believe that consultant-delivered care, coupled with the integration of supervised training, is a must – and for that we have already provided the evidence for an expansion in the number of consultant posts so that acute care can be provided on fewer sites whilst expanding care closer to home. This needs to happen before any reduction in training posts is made. We also need to ensure that trainees are aware of the various options available to them, such as an academic research career, once they complete their training.”

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