Non-UK graduates less likely to be appointed to consultant posts, survey finds

Paediatricians who qualified from medical school in a non-UK country are less likely to be offered a consultant post than their UK-trained peers, according to survey of 155 doctors by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH).

Paediatricians who completed their primary medical education in the UK sent 1.6 applications before being appointed to a consultant post, compared with 2.5 applications among doctors who received their primary degree from a non-UK country. The survey found no difference in the number of applications required between men and women. 

Dr Nicola Jay, Officer for Workforce Planning at RCPCH, said the College will now investigate the disparity:

Non-UK graduates are clearly having a harder time getting appointed to consultant posts. This is troubling, especially during a time of acute shortages. There’s been an emphasis in recent years on the importance of a ‘homegrown workforce’ which might be affecting people’s experience in the consultant job market.  

We do need more medical education places in the UK, but we also need to ensure that doctors and healthcare workers from other countries feel welcome to join the NHS. We have very acute staffing pressures and we need to make sure that we’re using a level playing field to recruit consultants.

Paediatrics is heavily reliant on overseas-qualified doctors, and we must ensure that they are treated equitably. Forty percent of those recently trained in paediatrics gained their primary medical qualification in a non-UK country.

The survey also found that it’s taking longer to train paediatricians. Among the 2017 cohort it took an average of 11.3 years between registration on the General Medical Council (GMC) register and Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT). This is an increase of 1.5 years from 2011.

Dr Jay said:

There’s no doubt that it’s quite a tough time to be working in the NHS. Rota gaps, long hours and staff shortages are putting people under a lot of pressure. Practically this means trainees might take a year out or extra time to do research, which makes their overall training time longer. Others will start a family during their training and step off to take parental leave or a career break. The bright spot amid the pressure of a stretched NHS is that paediatrics is a family-friendly speciality which allows for fairly substantial career breaks and less than full time working.

The report found 86 per cent of respondents in substantive posts one year out from qualification with just 10 per cent in a locum post and 3 per cent in a fixed term post. The report says this may reflect shortages in the NHS and indicates that paediatrics continues to be a ‘buyer’s market’ for new certificate holders. A majority of those surveyed (73 per cent) were happy with the quality and content of the paediatrics training programme, and 81 per cent said the duration of training is ‘about right’.