GMC publishes 'State of Medical Education and Practice in the UK' report

The UK's medical profession faces the prospect of too few doctors to treat rising numbers of patients, says the General Medical Council (GMC).

In it’s annual ‘State of Medical Education and Practice in the UK’ report, the GMC says the supply of doctors has failed to keep up with demand and highlights four areas of concern:

  • supply of new doctors into the UK has not kept up with demand
  • a dependence on non-UK qualified doctors in some specialist areas
  • the risk of some overseas doctors being put off working in the UK after Brexit
  • an ongoing strain on doctors in training

Responding to the seventh annual report from the General Medical Council (GMC) on the ‘State of Medical Education and Practice in the UK,’ Professor Neena Modi, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) said:

“The RCPCH welcomes the publication by the GMC of the seventh annual report on the state of medical education and practice in the UK and the recognition within the report that doctors continue to provide exceptional care to patients.

“It is true the UK population is growing, people are living longer and services are having to meet the ever increasing demands made by long term health conditions. But many of these conditions are preventable and effective child health services, and the promotion of good health in early life, are key to creating a healthier adult, no less child, population. It is therefore very disappointing that paediatrics, a specialty serving 25% of the UK population, is only briefly referred to within the GMC report.

“Paediatricians always go the extra mile to provide safe care to infants, children and young people but paediatric rotas across the UK are only 82% filled and neonatal rotas are more critical at just 79%, so it is becoming increasingly hard to keep the speciality afloat.

“Recruitment to paediatrics has become very difficult, not because it is not a rewarding, fulfilling career, but because the UK trainee workforce has become demoralised, frustrated, and fed up with the escalating pressures being placed upon health services. Between 2013 and 2016 there was a 27% fall in the number of foundation doctors planning to apply to paediatric specialty training and applicants for ST1 training in paediatrics fell from 800 in 2015 to 688 in 2017. There has also been a 58% fall in the number of doctors from the EU applying to work in paediatrics between 2015 and 2017. The report from the GMC states the number of licenced paediatricians increased by 16% over the period 2012-2017. However this fails to take less than full time training into account. In fact the number of whole time equivalent paediatric trainees fell by 1% over this time. In addition workloads have increased as the number of in-patient admissions and emergency department attendances for children continues to grow.

"Scotland has recognised paediatrics as a shortage speciality, but despite these stark facts, this is not the case elsewhere in the UK. This variation in national policy is inequitable, and we have repeatedly called for paediatrics to be placed on the national shortage occupation list.

“The RCPCH is committed to training a paediatric medical workforce able to work flexibly with confidence across care boundaries and locations. We are delighted that, as mentioned in the report, the GMC have just approved our new curriculum which will ensure paediatricians acquire expertise to meet the needs of infants, children and young people in the 21st century. However the GMC report also clearly demonstrates that training, education and regulation are not enough. What is needed is a health service that cares for staff as well as patients, maintains an adequate workforce, and supports our dedicated doctors to give of their best. ”