RCPCH careers campaign - FAQs for members

In 2019, the College committed to begin a national conversation to address the barriers to recruitment and retention in paediatrics. We are a specialty that is rewarding, varied and where you can make a huge impact and we wanted to share your stories about why you chose paediatrics, and what keeps you there – as well as highlighting all the work the College is doing to keep supporting you throughout your training and career.

So a year on, and who could have predicted where we would find ourselves?


The context for this year’s paediatrics campaign is a lot brighter in terms of fill rates. In England we saw a big jump from last year’s rate of 82.8%, rising to 97.46% in 2020. We had similarly solid fill rates in Northern Ireland and Wales of 93.75% and 95.83% respectively, and a very good showing in Scotland.  This is a huge achievement and show that more people what to join our amazing specialty.

However, COVID-19 has caused a huge amount of pressure and strain on the NHS and your training and working lives so it is more important than ever that we support doctors to join, and stay, in paediatrics.

We need to ensure health professionals are supported to work safely and have appropriate support, equipment and space to treat children and young people. There have been innovations and radical changes to existing ways of working so we also need to capture these, grow and develop the parts that have worked well and learn lessons and make improvements where needed.

Last year, our campaign rightly took a two-pronged approach to focus on what needed to be done to retain paediatricians as well as highlighting the need for more paediatricians to be recruited.  We are taking a similar two-stage approach this year on retention and recruitment.

Supporting you at every stage - what has the College done so far on retention?

Long shifts, rota gaps, and exhaustion were issues even before a global pandemic and we’ve been working hard to address these challenges and ensure we’re advocating for members and supporting you throughout your career in paediatrics. This ranges from our policy work advocating for children’s services over winter, developing our work around mentoring and our workforce census which helps you with local workforce planning and sharing best practise.

We’ve been pushing for the UK Government to publish the NHS People Plan in England for some time. We support the Plan’s focus on flexibility, wellbeing and addressing inequalities and discrimination against NHS staff and patients. Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) is an area the College is committed to doing more and we will be publishing our own EDI and paediatrics action plan later this year as, amongst other topics, the action plan will also consider working lives.
However, we believe the overall direction of travel set out in the People Plan needs to be backed up by a proper workforce strategy and a commitment to shoring up the paediatric workforce in the spending review.

In Wales, we welcomed the publication of Health Education and Improvement Wales ‘Healthier Wales: Our Workforce Strategy for Health and Social Care’ (2019) in draft form. We want to see the strategy expanded to make explicit recommendations for the child health workforce, including a coherent and consistent approach to planning to help address recruitment and retention in the healthcare workforce.

In another important development, we are currently recruiting for an Officer for Retention to ensure this issue is at the heart of all the College’s work and this person will drive our forthcoming retention strategy to help people thrive in the profession. The strategy is due to be published before the end of the year.

However, there are also more fundamental changes required and we need a standardised approach to retention, requiring coordinated action across government and the NHS nationally and locally. We also need better data on attrition to help us understand when people leave medicine and the factors that impact their decision. We will continue to keep you informed as our work develops.

And of course, the College’s Paediatrics 2040 project is well underway.  A key part of the project is to look ahead to the future on how we attract and retain a paediatric workforce that is well equipped to provide the best possible services. We aim to publish more on this later in the year.

What can you do to help our retention work?

How can we continue to recruit people into paediatrics?

Our campaign last year had a huge impact but it’s just the start of our work.

We will continue to highlight the benefits of working in paediatrics and encourage trainees and medical students to #ChoosePaediatrics. This year, you’ll see more inspirational videos, activity on social media and blogs about working in paediatrics. We’ll be sharing more details about how you can get involved and support this campaign so keep checking this page.

This year’s recruitment campaign will raise awareness of the benefits of working in paediatrics, how rewarding it is, how you know you’re making an impact but also about the variety of opportunities and sub-specialties available.

We will continue to work with the United Kingdom Aspiring Paediatricians Society (UKAPS) to encourage medical students to consider paediatrics and facilitating access to opportunities, mentors and resources.

There is more work to be done to address some of the wider issues, we were pleased to see the emphasis on flexible working, and the health and wellbeing of NHS staff in the recent People Plan, but we need more clarity on how actions will be achieved. We call on the government to prove their regard for the NHS by properly funding it and providing recruitment commitments to grow and develop the health workforce.

What can you do to help our recruitment campaign?

Our new recruitment campaign launched on 9 September. We invite you to watch our video and view our resources on Choose paediatrics, and:

  • Share the videos and messages on social media using the hashtag #ChoosePaediatrics
  • Share your experiences of why you chose paediatrics on Twitter at #ChoosePaediatrics
  • Talk to medical students and foundation doctors about paediatrics
  • Organise a local virtual careers session or encourage people to attend one of our online workshops to find out more about a career in paediatrics
  • Shape our future work on recruitment - email us on careers.campaign@rcpch.ac.uk

What else are we doing for new and existing trainees?

Through our Shape of Training work and the launch of our new curriculum, Progress in 2018, we are introducing more flexibility into the training pathway and better preparing doctors to understand the holistic needs of children, young people, families and populations. In response to COVID-19 and to ensure we’re providing training and support as and when you need it, we are increasing our online learning and are investing heavily in the technologies which will enable us to safeguard career progression, high standards of examination and assessment and allow our trainees to move forward in the UK and worldwide.

We have also created a Trainee Charter outlining what trainees can expect from every training unit in the UK, across key domains. We hope that training units will strive to achieve these aims and that the Charter will be a hallmark of high quality local training.

We have been running a series of free careers workshops for medical students and foundation doctors to find out more and ask questions about paediatrics. If you’d be interested in presenting or attending one of these events, please let us know by emailing us on careers.campaign@rcpch.ac.uk.

Our Medical Training Initiative (Paediatrics) scheme enables trainees from lower income countries to enter two-year structured training fellowships in the NHS that the RCPCH quality assures. Successful applicants are supported during their time spent training in the UK. We are now set to welcome 150 trainees a year as a valuable addition to our workforce, bringing new ideas and experience to benefit the NHS and paediatric training. MTI Fellows will then return to their home countries to implement what they’ve learned during their time in the UK, in many cases setting up completely new sub-speciality services in regions that currently lack this.

We have campaigned for our members on a range of issues and have seen successes including getting paediatrics on the shortage occupation list to ease approval for non-EU paediatricians visas.

What is the College already doing more broadly to support members?

  • Connecting you with your peers – our Stepping Up programme, career support service and mentoring support all provide you with ongoing peer support. 
  • Facilitating QI collaboratives – more than 50 NHS teams are already taking part in our improvement collaboratives in diabetes and epilepsy
  • Lifelong learning – we provide a comprehensive programme of learning and development through our face to face courses and online learning provision. We are expanding this work over the coming year to better enable our members to learn when and where it suits them
  • Using strong evidence to campaign for more paediatricians - most recently, in 2019, the College used census data to successfully campaign nationally for an increase in paediatric training places in Scotland. Furthermore, we successfully campaigned to get paediatrics included on the Shortage Occupation List
  • Providing practical resources - our resources cover everything from career development and mentoring to health & wellbeing and less than full time training support
  • Equipping you tools to advocate for safe services – reports such as Facing the Future service standards and the Trainee Charter are designed to influence policy and practice in the NHS so that it provides high quality, safe and sustainable healthcare services for all children and that it is a better place to work for our members
  • Local representation – our regional leads, national committees in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, Area Officers, College Tutors and regional trainee reps exist to support you and to champion your views within the College.  If you’re not sure who your regional lead is, find out on our region pages