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New report exposes continuing shortage of geriatricians

22 Feb 2024

Analysis of 2022 Physicians’ Census highlights potential impact of workforce pressures on healthcare for UK’s ageing population

The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow has today (Thursday 22 February) welcomed further analysis of the 2022 Consultant Physicians’ Census exploring the potential impact of workforce pressures on healthcare for older people.

The state of the consultant geriatrician workforce’, a report published by the British Geriatrics Society (BGS), analyses data from the most recent UK census of consultant physicians conducted by the Royal College of Physicians London on behalf of the UK’s physicianly royal colleges.

Based on data collected in 2022, key findings indicate that there are still not enough geriatricians to meet the target of one consultant geriatrician for every 500 people aged 85, which the BGS advocates. Compounding the challenge of the workforce shortfall, it is expected that just under 50 per cent of the current consultant geriatrician workforce will retire in the next ten years. 

Additionally, there is an uneven distribution of geriatricians across the country, with urban areas typically being better served. This is despite non-metropolitan areas being more likely to have ageing populations.

The higher number of geriatricians in areas such as London has enabled the development and ongoing improvement of innovative services for older people including Front-Door Frailty, Peri-operative Care for Older Patients Undergoing Surgery (POPS) and proactive care in the community. These services could be replicated across the country with the availability of more geriatricians.

The new data highlights that most geriatricians experience a substantial level of rota gaps and vacancies in their department.

Mike McKirdy, President of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, said: “The results of the Consultant Physicians’ Census reflect the intense pressure being felt by doctors across the UK as a result of widespread rota gaps in the medical workforce.

 “We welcome BGS’ further analysis of the challenges for consultant geriatricians and their patients – the biggest users of the health and social care system. With 44% of consultant geriatricians expected to reach their intended retirement age in the next 10 years, it is vital that we continue to grow the workforce to ensure older people receive the high-quality, personalised care they need and deserve.”

Professor Adam Gordon, President of the British Geriatrics Society, said: “Our analysis of the latest RCP census of consultant physicians reinforces our calls for more geriatricians to meet the needs of the UK’s ageing population. In some parts of the country, there are severe shortages of those with the expertise to care for older people. By failing to address this, we are failing some of the most vulnerable people in society. We need to act with urgency to do something about these shortages.”

Dr Amit Arora, Vice President for Workforce at the British Geriatrics Society, said: “Geriatricians are experiencing unacceptable levels of rota gaps and vacancies, with most feeling a lack of control over their workload. It is vital that these workforce issues are addressed, and more is done to support the recruitment, retention, and development of those caring for older people.”

To read the BGS report in full, visit the BGS website.

Category: Workforce

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