England needs at least 642 additional consultant paediatricians just to meet demand, according to new data published in the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) general election manifesto1.
The College, which represents nearly 20,000 paediatricians in the UK and internationally, called on the next government to commit to publishing a coherent workforce plan, including the necessary resources to address grave workforce pressures faced by paediatricians.
Shortages are driven by a combination of factors including a 12.7% increase in emergency paediatric admissions between 2014 and 2017 and gaps in consultant resident cover.
The College also called for urgent reform of NHS pension tax rules, which in their current form are penalising doctors for working extra shifts and leading many consultant paediatricians to retire or step back from additional work.
Professor Russell Viner, President of RCPCH said:
Life on the ground for paediatricians is tough right now and that’s having a knock-on effect to children and young people. The paediatric and child health workforce is experiencing severe shortages across every profession and this is leading to burnout, attrition and early retirement. We can’t continue to push down on people who are essential for the health and safety of our children and young people. It’s time to deliver on workforce promises and prepare for the future.
The RCPCH also called for the next government to support long term planning in the NHS, which if properly resourced, will make a real difference to the health and wellbeing of children and young people. In addition, the manifesto urges an incoming government to establish a cross-governmental Children and Young People’s Health Strategy to ensure coordination of services, plans and programmes nationally and locally.
The manifesto also calls for an incoming government to support healthier environments and lifestyles for children and young people. Children and young people in the UK have some of the worst health outcomes and face some of the starkest inequalities among the most developed nations. RCPCH is asking for an incoming government to:
- Prioritise the prevention of mental illness and the promotion of wellbeing. This should include a commitment to providing training for all child health professionals to support children and young people who present with mental health problems
- Take action on improving falling vaccine rates by supporting research into the factors influencing uptake of vaccines in different settings
- Protect and restore funding for public health services so health visiting, smoking cessation and breastfeeding support programmes are available to all pregnant women and new mothers
- Tackle childhood obesity by protecting children from exposure to advertising for food and drinks high in fat, sugar and salt with a 9pm watershed on all media. Update the soft drinks industry levy to include sugar-sweetened dairy drinks
- Prioritise children within a cross-government action plan to tackle outdoor air quality
- 1. In the UK, health policy and spending is a devolved issue, with each of our four nations setting its own strategy.