Worrying lack of children’s doctors in Wales could damage health of future generations, say medical experts

Our new report says the current workforce must expand, with an increase of 42% consultant paediatricians, to deliver the appropriate standards of care to children and young people.

The report from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health reveals that the paediatric workforce in Wales is on the brink of a recruitment crisis. The current workforce must expand and include the appointment of at least 73 more consultant paediatricians – an increase of 42% – in order to deliver the appropriate standards of care to children and young people.

While the number of paediatric consultants has increased between 2015 and 2017, the increase was by just 2.9%, much lower than the increase in England over this time (6.4%).

General paediatrics is the area experiencing the biggest shortfall in staff, accounting for well over half of the extra recruitment needed. General paediatricians look after children from birth to late adolescence, and are trained to manage multiple health problems ranging from life-threatening illnesses to chronic diseases. Concerns were also raised about recruitment into rural areas, and community and specialist paediatrics too.

The RCPCH report notes the opportunity presented by the formation of Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW) to develop a robust workforce strategy, and makes a series of clear recommendations:

  • Health Education and Improvement Wales must develop a bespoke child health workforce strategy which includes a wide range of professionals such as doctors, midwives, nurses, pharmacists, health visitors and school nurses.
  • Welsh Government needs to increase the number of paediatric trainee places in Wales.
  • The report supports the Royal College of General Practitioners’ call for an extra year of GP training to include six months of dedicated child health training for all trainees.
  • Incentives such as pay bonuses to be considered to attract and retain paediatricians, particularly in remote or rural areas.

Dr David Tuthill, RCPCH Officer for Wales, said that the report clearly highlighted the impending seriousness of the paediatric workforce situation.

Tackling the shortage of paediatric doctors needs to be a priority. We know that unless there is an expansion of medical student places and more doctors trained to be paediatricians, we will see increasing vacancies and gaps in rotas across Wales, particularly in the more remote areas. Our calculations suggest that at least 73 more consultant paediatricians need to be trained to meet demand.

I urge the Welsh Government, Health Education and Improvement Wales and all seven Health Boards to reflect on our findings and seriously consider how best to implement our recommendations as a matter of urgency. We look forward to working with them to deliver this. Failing to take the necessary steps now will be to the detriment of our children now and in the future.

The 2017 workforce census: focus on Wales is available to view in full on the RCPCH website.