UK government must act to avert future medical workforce crises, says BMA

Authors: Abi Rimmer 

Publication date:  26 Jun 2017

Delegates at the BMA’s annual representative meeting in Bournemouth on Monday 26 June voted in favour of a motion demanding that the UK government should take action to bolster the workforce. As part of this work it should review its shortage occupation list and invest in particular medical specialties at risk of shortages, the motion said.

The shortage occupation list is an official list of occupations for which there are not enough UK workers to fill vacancies. Employers wanting to recruit someone from outside the European Economic Area to fill a vacancy in a job that is on the list can do so without needing to carry out a resident labour market test. In 2015 consultant clinical radiologists, psychiatry core trainees, and staff grade paediatricians were placed on the list.[1]

Proposing the motion, GP Andrew Mowat said that the number of vacant medical posts in the NHS was “horrendous,” with “11% of posts vacant in emergency medicine, 7% in paediatrics, a shortage of between 8000 and 12000 GPs, in the context of 50 000 of all NHS posts vacant.”

He added, “Clearly there is an NHS workforce crisis, and it is affecting doctors and nurses and midwives and many other professions, but most importantly it is affecting the care of patients.”

Mowat said that the government’s only significant response to the medical workforce crisis was to increase the number of medical school places by 25% by 2023.[2] “Well, we cannot wait until 2023, our patients cannot wait until 2023, the workforce crisis is now, and next year and every year until then,” he said.

The motion highlighted emergency medicine, general practice, and paediatrics as areas of particular concern. Sarah Hallet, a paediatric trainee, said that despite calls for an increase in paediatric training numbers from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, “applicants to [the first year of specialty training] in paediatrics fell from 800 in 2015 to just 580 in 2018.” She said, “There is a growing crisis in the paediatric workforce. This must be recognised.”

Mark Porter, the BMA’s chair of council, added, “There are a number of actions that need to be taken to deal with the tremendous workforce problems that are now becoming a day to day feature of the NHS. This [the motion’s proposal] is one of them.”


  1. Rimmer A. Radiology, psychiatry, and paediatrics posts are put on national shortage list. BMJ Careers Feb 2015. [Link] .
  2. Torjesen I. Hunt aims for fully home grown doctor workforce. BMJ  2016;355:i5399. [Link]   [Link] .

Abi Rimmer BMJ Careers

Cite this as BMJ Careers ; doi: