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2016–17 physicians census

28 Jun 2017

Focus on physicians: 2016–17 census of the consultant physician and higher specialty trainee workforces in the UK.

The 2016/17 physicians census was conducted by the RCP’s Medical Workforce Unit (MWU) on behalf of the Royal College of Physicians of London, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, and the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.

The census was sent electronically to all UK physician consultants and higher specialty trainee (HSTs) in post on 30 September 2016.

Consultant headcount was independently verified by nation, specialty and demographics by checking with specialty representatives, the GMC and with consultants’ work locations.

Data for the full HST workforce were obtained from the Joint Royal Colleges of Physicians Training Board (JRCPTB), and from an electronic census sent to all trainee physicians.

Headlines from the census

  • The proportion of female consultant physicians has again increased, and over half of higher specialty trainees (HSTs) are female. 
  • Less than full time (LTFT) working has also increased. Data show that consultants who had recently retired (but subsequently returned to work) predominantly worked LTFT.
  • Over three-quarters of consultant physicians and HSTs are UK graduates, and the overwhelming majority are UK citizens.
  • Nearly half of advertised substantive consultant posts were not appointed to. This is likely the result of awarded certificates of completion of training (CCTs) being much lower than advertised posts.  
  • Over one-fifth of consultants reported that trainee rota gaps occur ‘frequently’ or ‘often’, and stated that these gaps have a significant impact on patient safety.
  • Physician associates were seen more frequently in specialties with significant rota gaps.
  • Both consultants and HSTs reported high levels of satisfaction with specialty work, but substantially lower levels of satisfaction with general internal medicine.

The full census report is available to download below.


Get involved in the MWU’s work

The MWU will be undertaking some short surveys of representative portions of the workforce over the year. Their aim is not to survey any individual more than once (in addition to the main census) and to have a quicker turnaround so that we are more responsive to present-day and future challenges affecting the physician workforce. If you would like to be involved, please email:

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