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Fall in senior clinical academic staff is worrying medical schools

The Medical Schools Council is concerned over the falling number of clinical academic staff, as revealed by a recent workforce survey.

The survey shows that the total number of medical clinical academics has seen a 2.1% decline since 2015 and a 4.2% decline since 2010.

The reductions occur disproportionately at the Senior Lecturer (also known as Reader) level. There’s been a 32.9% fall in this role since 2000.

This is part of an overall decline in medical clinical academic numbers of 14.3% over the same period.

Medical clinical academics combine clinical practice, teaching and research. This puts them at the forefront of medicine in the UK, says the Medical Schools Council, using each aspect of their work to enrich the others.

In the context of a health service under severe pressures from an ageing population with increasingly complex co-morbidities, maintaining a strong balance and overall number of clinical academics is essential, the Medical Schools Council claims.

Medical schools have highlighted problems in recruiting to posts at the Senior Lecturer level. There is concern as to whether there are sufficient numbers at researcher grade to fill the gap in the future.

The survey also covers areas such as the funding, geographical spread, gender and ethnicity of the clinical academic team. When broken down by specialties, the survey data revealed drops in clinical academic numbers in Psychiatry and Pathology, and increases in Medical Education and Emergency Medicine.

The survey shows a steady increase of clinical academics in General Practice, although it highlights that numbers remain very small in comparison to the wider population of GPs. There is a need for rapid expansion if this important team is to help primary care meet the growing needs of the population.

Professor Jenny Higham, Chair of the Medical Schools Council, said: “Medical clinical academics are key to a health service which properly serves the nation. Where medical schools have reported difficulties in recruiting to Senior Lecturer grade, we must together investigate and remove any barriers for potential candidates.”

More on the survey.

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