• Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health warns 850 more paediatric consultants must be recruited to meet demand
  • College calls for specialism to be added to Home Office shortage occupation list
  • Also calls for “flexible pay premia” to incentivise potential trainees

Unfilled paediatric training posts pose a “significant risk” to children, young people, and their families, a royal college has warned.

New data shared with HSJ has revealed the extent of workforce shortages experienced by paediatric services across the country.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s workforce census – which collected data from all 191 organisations providing paediatric services in the UK – found 84 per cent of 166 respondents who answered this question felt staffing gaps posed a risk to services and children.*

The RCPCH estimated 850 more paediatric consultants need to be recruited in the UK to meet service demand.

The RCPCH also found there was a 11 per cent rota vacancy rate for foundation year doctors and 14.6 per cent vacancy rate for middle grade doctors between autumn 2017 and summer 2018.

The college has called for paediatric consultants, trainees, and speciality and associate specialist doctors to be put on the shortage occupation list and also for trainees to be offered “flexible pay premia” as a recruitment incentive into the paediatric speciality and for hard to recruit areas.

RCPCH president Russell Viner told HSJ the structure of the child health workforce is “complex”, involving paediatricians, health visitors, paediatric nurses and others.

“Outcomes for children and young people are poor in this country and without dramatic change we will fall further behind the rest of Europe,” Professor Viner said. “The workforce needs considerable attention.

“If we think about the overall workforce, we forget about children’s elements, which are often small, but the flow through isn’t there.”

He said that, while incidences of children presenting in emergency departments are increasing, paediatrician training numbers have dropped. “We don’t think the maths adds up,” he said.

Professor Viner added the college was concerned with the “broader issue” of the majority of care being delivered by people with “variable training in child health”.

“We have been campaigning for all GPs to have a paediatric [training] attachment,” Professor Viner said. “It’s not just GPs – it’s practice nurses, pharmacists, all frontline professionals. We would like in any workplace plan [for] careful thoughts [to be] given to child health training.”

 

*Amended at 14:35 on 31/01 to clarify the number of organisations in the census