In line with our mission to solve the UK healthcare staffing crisis, Remedium welcomes all attempts to address the clinical workforce shortages that are currently plaguing our NHS. Today, the BMA released a comprehensive report on the matter. We fully support and agree with the key themes put forward in this report, having championed this issue for many years.
However, among the solutions put forward by the BMA, we were surprised to see that improved recruitment, both at consultant level and across all clinical roles, was not highlighted as being critical in the fight against the consultant workforce shortage.
Of course, as an important and influential union, the BMA rightly focuses on issues related to the pay, wellbeing and employment rights of its membership – with the view that improving these measures will improve consultant retention. However, in addition to these measures, Remedium strongly advocates for a ‘recruitment first’ approach.
Below, we set out our own expert analysis of this important report and suggest additional solutions to these urgent workforce issues:
1. Consultant vacancies are a growing problem, along with unfilled clinical vacancies across the NHS medical workforce
As the report correctly recognises, the current consultant workforce is ageing and are leaving the profession in swathes, often due to the mental burnout caused by working in a system plagued by inadequate clinical staffing. According to the RCP, where there aren’t enough clinicians, nurses or allied health professionals on staffing rotas, the remaining consultants are left to pick up the pieces.
“Many consultants work significantly beyond their contracted hours in order to ensure patients get the care that they need; sometimes that work is unrecognised and, frequently, it is unrewarded.”
BMA Consultant Workforce Shortages Report, 2020
2. These problems are set to rise, so recruitment must be increased at all clinical levels
As stated in the report, “Current NHS service needs and COVID-19 illustrate the need to grow the workforce. To improve NHS performance, and to sustain that performance into the future commensurate to population requirements, medical workforce numbers, including consultants, must increase. This is particularly pressing now given the huge backlog of non-COVID care created as a result of the pandemic, which is only likely to grow in the coming months.”
However, in addition to the consultant retention strategies and solutions explored in this report, Remedium advocates for a ‘recruitment first’ approach. An increase in the number of medical staff in the workforce is clearly paramount to addressing these issues, yet the BMA appear reluctant to suggest that the most pressing solution, both in the short and long term, is the increased recruitment of permanent consultants and supplementary clinical employees. This would relieve the excessive work burden and pressures placed on consultants and would therefore go some way in decreasing their burnout and consequent departure from the profession.
3. In the medium-to-long term, more must be done to improve NHS permanent clinical recruitment processes
Ultimately, in order to address ever-growing consultant shortages, NHS trusts will have to recruit more permanent clinicians from overseas in order to plug the nationwide gap, especially if numbers of medical school, foundation programme (FP) and specialty training places are not rapidly increased to meet predicted future doctor supply requirements.
Our account management team are already consulting NHS trusts across the country to improve their clinical recruitment processes, which is helping to relieve the burden on their existing teams; contributing to better staff retention rates and to more efficient, patient-centred care. However, in the long-term, systemic workforce issues that are contributing the NHS-wide healthcare staffing crisis must be addressed on a national policy level, or else the problem will only continue to manifest.
Contact us today if you are interested in learning more about how Remedium can support your trust to address nationwide consultant shortages, while improving retention among all medical staff and driving more efficient, patient-led care.