•  New analysis suggests there will be a shortfall of 250 full time consultant clinical oncologists by 2022
  • Royal college has called for more training places in hospitals so treatment can keep up with cancer rates 

The Royal College of Radiologists has urged the government to fund more training places for clinical oncologists, following data revealing that workforce shortages are set to worsen over the coming years.

Analysis by the college, shared with HSJ, said that there is an estimated shortfall of approximately 250 full-time consultant clinical oncologists by 2022.

The number of clinical oncology vacancies also increased from 5 per cent in 2016 to 7 per cent in 2017.

When announcing its funding plan for the NHS last week, the government said it wanted to improve cancer care “so that patient outcomes move towards the very best in Europe”.

The research – published in the college’s workforce census report – also found that experienced clinical oncologists are leaving the NHS earlier. In 2017, the average retirement age was 60, whereas in 2015 and 2016 it was 64, it found.

Although the new data showed that the clinical oncologist workforce increased by 2 per cent in 2016, the growth rate had slowed, as from 2012 to 2016 the workforce was expanding at 5 per cent year on year.

David Bloomfield, the RCR’s medical director of professional practice in clinical oncology and lead author of the workforce report called for the government to fund more training places in UK hospitals in order for “treatment to keep up with cancer rates” and boost the clinical oncologist workforce.

“Clinical oncologists are the UK’s experts trained in all non-surgical cancer treatments – and we do not have enough of them,” Dr Bloomfield said.

The report stressed that without “significant change” to the supply of cancer services, the shortfalls currently being experienced across the clinical oncology workforce will continue.

It also highlighted that workforce planners must factor the “marked rise” in less than full time working into projections and funding for future trainee numbers.

Analysis revealed that the proportion of consultant clinical oncologists working less than full time has risen from 21 per cent in 2012 to 28 per cent in 2017.

The college also found that time allocated to supporting professional activities for clinical oncologists is being “steadily eroded”, which means “less time available to enhance techniques and services for patient benefit”.