The UK’s medical workforce is at its ‘crunch point’, with the number of practising doctors unable to meet growing health-care demands, says the General Medical Council (GMC).
The regulatory body predicts that workforce strains will worsen over the next 20 years unless urgent action is taken. In its report, four major ‘warning signs’ are identified to be immediately addressed by the UK government. These are:
- the insufficient supply of new doctors into the UK’s health-care system, which has led to difficulties in keeping pace with a growing demand for health services
- increasing dependence on non-UK qualified doctors
- the risk of the UK becoming an unattractive place to work for overseas doctors
- continuing pressures on trainee doctors.
The number of UK-registered doctors has increased by 2% over the last 5 years; however, the demand for emergency and primary care services has risen steeply. Since 2012, England has experienced a 27% increase in A&E attendances, while Northern Ireland has seen a 10% rise.
In response to these findings, the Chair of the Royal College of GPs, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, commented: ‘It is clear we need to be training more doctors here in the UK – and we have welcomed the government's commitment to increase medical school places…’
Chief Executive of the GMC, Charlie Massey, noted that the ‘crunch point’ in medical staffing development meant that any decisions made over the coming years would be crucial in determining whether the workforce will be able to meet increasing demands.
‘Each country needs to think carefully about how many doctors are needed, what expertise we need them to have so they can work as flexibly as possible, and where they should be located given the changes and movement in population expected.’
He added: ‘We are a professional regulator, not a workforce planning body, but we want to be an active partner in helping each country of the UK to address these priorities.’