Hospital Dr News

New consultants struggling to secure jobs

Newly qualified consultants are struggling to find jobs in a cash-strapped NHS, a workforce study finds.

The Royal College of Physicians’ annual survey of consultants who completed their CCT in the last 12 months reveals that they are finding it harder to get jobs across 28 medical specialties in England than three years ago.

Trainees are having to make more job applications than ever before to achieve a new consultant post and trusts are increasingly offering short term “post-CCT posts” rather than full consultant posts.

It is hardest to gain a new consultant job in the large specialties – gastroenterology, renal medicine, genito-urinary medicine and endocrinology and diabetes – even though a number of these specialities have high numbers of potential candidates in training.

Given that all of these are larger specialties this difficulty may produce a large number of CCT holders without posts, warns the RCP.

The college found evidence that financial difficulties were preventing some trusts from appointing new consultants. Some of the 441 respondents to the survey reported that trusts are struggling to sign off budgets for consultant posts.

Dr Andrew Goddard, director of the RCP’s medical workforce unit, said: “This survey indicates that a cash-strapped NHS is struggling to employ newly qualified consultants – an example of hospitals being on the edge since they are struggling to meet the needs of acutely ill patients.

“The NHS needs to provide a consultant-delivered service 12 hours a day, seven days a week. We have the doctors coming out of training to do this but we need to ensure there are the jobs available to keep them in the NHS.”

He called for future national workforce planning to be based on rigorous data. Census data from consultant physicians over the past 21 years has shown the consultant workforce is expanding by 4-5% per annum, with an increase of 6.7 % in the past year.

In February, the Centre for Workforce Intelligence called for an urgent debate on the future shape of the consultant workforce after its projections showed that if the system continues to train and recruit doctors at the current rate there could be a 60% increase in consultants compared to 2010.

The RCP survey also found that:

– New consultants are increasingly willing to accept lower paid jobs with less responsibility if they are able to remain in the area of the country in which they trained.

– The average age of obtaining CCT is 36.9 when many doctors are likely to have young families.

– Female CCT holders apply for fewer posts, tend to be more successful in getting interviews and are significantly more likely to be offered a post. This suggests that female CCT holders are more selective in their applications and apply for posts that they are more likely to obtain.

– The number of female trainees gaining their CCT is set to increase over the next few years compared with male trainees. The number of female medical registrars is 49.9% (compared with 29.4% for consultants) and compared with 45.1% in 2008.

Bill McMillan, head of medical pay and workforce for the NHS Employers organisation, said: “It is a matter for local employers to decide on their staffing needs, how many posts are required and what the appropriate terms and conditions should be. NHS employers continue to recruit qualified doctors to do medical work to meet the needs of patients. Many of these will be on the consultant contract conditions but others will be on specialty doctor contracts or local variations of the national contracts.

“The number of consultant positions in the NHS has grown considerably over the past decade and there are now nearly twice as many jobs on the consultant contract than there were in 1997.”

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3 Responses to “New consultants struggling to secure jobs”

  1. Malcolm Morrison says:

    They are having the same problems in surgery.
    If we are to have a ‘consultant-based’ (as opposed to a consultant-led) service, of course there have to be LOTS more consultants! But then the work will be very different from ‘the good old days’ – which begs the question: “What is a consultant?”

    I note that Dr Goddard of the RCP talks of a “consultant-delivered service 12 hours a day” Who is looking after the other 12 hours? Is it to be unsupervised juniors working nights and weekends?!

  2. Tom Goodfellow says:

    Well Malcolm

    It definitely won’t be the GPs who have almost totally contracted out of unsocial hours working thanks to their ruddy BMA negotiated contract!

  3. Dr Death says:

    Has anyone looked at the RCP survey results? They don’t look like a crisis to me. As far as I can see, most CCT holders get a consultant post after applying for fewer than 4 posts. All we seem to be looking at is healthy competition for consultant jobs (unlike the position 3 or 4 years ago, where we could not form decent shortlists).

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