The number of vacant clinical oncologist roles has doubled in just five years, according to the Clinical oncology UK workforce census 2018 from the Royal College of Radiologists (RCR). One in six UK cancer centres now have fewer consultants than five years ago and one in four full-time consultants is currently contracted to work over 48 hours per week.
With too few trainees and many consultants retiring, the College is forecasting that the current 18 per cent shortfall in consultant oncologists will rise to 22 per cent in the next five years. It is estimated that the number of consultants leaving the profession each year will increase from 3.6 per cent to 4.6 per cent by 2023. The RCR says the UK needs two-times the current number of trainees to meet the minimum number of clinical oncologists needed for 2023. It also proposes that incentivising retirement at 65 instead of 60 would retain almost 100 consultant clinical oncologists over the next five years.
The College is calling on the government to add consultant clinical oncologists to the Tier 2 Shortage Occupation List (SoL).
Writing in the report foreword, Dr Tom Roques, Medical Director, Professional Practice for Clinical Oncology at the RCR said the data make for “sobering reading”. “The workforce is growing, vacant consultant posts cannot be filled and doctors have less time than ever for professional and service development. More concerning, there is clear evidence of increased stress and burnout. We are losing expertise as consultants retire earlier and risking our workforce by asking them to work longer hours,” he said.