Intended for healthcare professionals


Clinical academic workforce continues to shrink

BMJ 2017; 358 doi: (Published 11 July 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;358:j3352
  1. Abi Rimmer
  1. BMJ Careers

The UK Medical Schools Council recently published the findings of its survey of clinical academic staffing.1 The council gathered data from all 33 publicly funded UK medical schools on 31 July 2016. The survey did not include the newly established private medical schools.

Falling numbers

The survey found that UK medical schools employed 3041 full time equivalent clinical academic staff employed by UK medical schools, with a headcount of 3361. This is a 2.1% decline since 2015 and a 4.2% decline since 2010. By comparison, since 2010 the number of NHS consultants has risen by 20.6%.


The overall decline is partly the result of a 4.2% fall in reader and senior lecturer staff since 2015, the survey found. Between 2000 and 2016 there was an overall increase in the number of professors, by 29.7%, but this was offset by a decrease of 32.9% in readers and senior lecturers and a 32% decline in lecturer grade staff.

Four nations

The highest proportion of clinical academics is in England, which is home to 81% of all UK academic clinical staff, followed by Scotland (13%), Wales (4%), and Northern Ireland (2%). These numbers broadly match the distribution of student numbers at the UK’s 34 publicly funded medical schools.

Regional differences

There is a concentration of clinical academic staff in London (31.6%), but this proportion has fallen by 5.5 percentage points since 2015. After London and Scotland, the biggest proportions of clinical academics are found in the North West (7.7%) and the West Midlands (7.1%). The smallest proportion is found in Kent, Surrey, and Sussex (0.9%).


Over 40% of clinical academics are physicians, 9.2% are surgeons, 8.1% are psychiatrists, and 7.4% are GPs. The three smallest specialties are medical education, with 17.1 full time equivalent staff, emergency medicine with seven, and occupational medicine with five.


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