Rise in hospital workload outstrips growth in medical workforce

Authors: Abi Rimmer 

Publication date:  25 May 2017


The rise in outpatient appointment numbers is outstripping the growth in the number of hospital doctors, data from NHS Digital show.

Between 2005 and 2015, the number of full time equivalent consultants increased by 45%, from 29 613 to 42 903. Over the same period, outpatient appointment attendances increased by 79%, from 50 038 667 in 2005 to 89 436 458 in 2015.

Year on year, consultant numbers have increased by an average of 3.8%. Over the same period, outpatient appointments have increased by an average of 6% a year.

In some years, the number of outpatient attendances has risen more sharply. Between 2007 and 2008, and again between 2008 and 2009, there was an 11% annual increase in the number of appointment attendances. Over these two periods the number of full time equivalent consultants increased by 4% and 7%.

Numbers of staff, associate specialist, and specialty doctors have increased at a slower rate than consultant numbers, rising by just 2% between 2009 and 2015, from 8698 to 8882. Comparable data on the numbers of staff, associate specialist, and specialty doctors are not available for the years between 2005 and 2008.

Registrar numbers fell slightly between 2009 and 2015. There was a 0.3% decrease over this period, from 29 540 in 2009 to 29 458 in 2015.

Similar data on GP workloads are not available. GP consultation numbers have not been published since 2008. Between 2004 and 2008, the last period for which data are available, the number of full time equivalent GPs, excluding locums, increased by 13%. Over that period, the number of GP consultations increased by 24%.

Abi Rimmer BMJ Careers

 arimmer@bmj.com

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