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Paediatrician shortage is putting child services at risk, warns college

BMJ 2016; 352 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i1348 (Published 07 March 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;352:i1348
  1. Adrian O’Dowd
  1. London

A shortage of paediatricians could put the health of children at risk, a report from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has warned.

The college’s latest workforce survey report, published on 7 March, found that increasing numbers of trainee paediatricians were opting to take time out of clinical training to take part in research, while others were taking parental leave.1

These changing patterns of work meant that many more doctors would need to be recruited to the specialty to ensure that enough were in post to safely staff children’s hospital services.

The college used the introduction of the Modernising Medical Careers programme for specialist training in 2007 as an opportunity to track a cohort of paediatric trainees and study their career pathways and intentions. The latest report, the fourth time the college has questioned the cohort, gathered responses from 47.5% of the original cohort (209 respondents).

Results showed that only 38% of trainees who began training in paediatrics in 2007 and who were still in the scheme in 2014 had reached the final two years of training. The remainder were still working their way through the programme.

Around a half (54%) of the doctors questioned took time out of training in the previous two years (59% of women and 36% of men), and 26% of all trainees took time out for parental leave.

Around a fifth (19%) took a break for academic activities, and the proportion of the cohort who were working less than full time rose to 31%, from 22% the last time they were asked in 2014.

Almost half (48%) said that they would like to work less than full time when they completed training, and an estimated 3.6% of trainees were leaving the training scheme each year.

The college said that these results showed how important it was for the government to adapt workforce planning to bring children’s services in line with the reality of working in the 21st century.

Simon Clark, the college’s workforce officer, said, “We are seeing a clear shift in the way our doctors want to train, with many spending time with a family of their own or undertaking research to improve the care delivered to children.

“Adaptations to workforce planning, such as an increase in the number of paediatric trainees coming into the training programme, are necessary to complement these changing behaviours and attitudes. Without them, there is a risk that there won’t be enough paediatricians to staff children’s services, and this could compromise patient care.”

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