Hospital staffing crisis as 40% of consultant posts remain vacant

Royal College of Physicians says ‘gathering storm’ of problems puts health secretary’s seven-day NHS plan at risk.

Hospitals are facing such chronic shortages of medical personnel that 40% of senior doctors’ posts remained vacant, new figures reveal. Vacancies are so widespread that the government’s push to create a seven-day NHS is at risk, according to the head of the Royal College of Physicians.

NHS hospital trusts are finding it impossible to fill key posts because of a lack of consultants equipped to do the job, according to the RCP’s latest annual audit of doctors working in hospitals.

“Our census data shows that 40% of consultant posts remain unfilled, nearly always due to a lack of candidates,” Prof Jane Dacre will tell the college’s annual conference on Tuesday.

“I fell sorry for NHS trusts, I really do. Across the country they have created a raft of new posts to meet the exponentially rising demands for patient care, only to find that there is no one to fill them. And our cash-strapped NHS trusts would not be creating posts unless they really needed them,” Dacre will add.

Severe staff shortages are one of the reasons the NHS is facing “a gathering storm” of pressures, including huge financial problems, disillusioned junior doctors and an unrelenting rise in the number of patients being admitted as emergencies. Shortages of trainee doctors are so serious that one in five members of the RCP, which represents non-specialist hospital doctors in England, believes that patient care is compromised, she will add.

Full story in The Guardian 15 March 2016