3 November 2022

Latest workforce report in the 'Meeting pathology demand' series

The Royal College of Pathologists in partnership with the UK Clinical Virology Network have published: The clinical virology workforce: current situation and recommendations, a survey of virology departments across the UK. The survey found an acute workforce shortage with a quarter of virology consultant level posts currently vacant.

Survey respondents also said that demands on their service warranted additional clinical virology posts but funding had not been allocated.

The results of the survey highlight the challenges facing clinical virology, including the anticipated reduction in the senior workforce and in trainee numbers conflating with a clear need to expand capability.

Ninety-eight per cent of UK departments responded to the survey. Findings include:

  • There are insufficient consultant clinical scientist positions available for clinical scientist trainees completing the Higher Specialist Science Training (HSST) programme. Increasing the number of clinical scientist roles is a potential solution in helping to tackle the workforce shortage.
  • Currently there are 77 medical consultants in post (58 full time and 19 part time) with 20 clinical scientist consultants of whom 5 are part time. At the time of surveying, 25 consultant level posts were vacant i.e. 25%.

The report also makes the following recommendations:

  • Push for an expansion in clinical virology training posts to address current and predicted shortfall in posts to meet population needs.
  • Liaise with relevant authorities to create new consultant-level clinical virology posts in recognition of the reported number ofunfunded posts and to match the increased number of trainees achieving a Certificate of Completion of Training/ HSST completion.
  • Undertake a review of the HSST curriculum for virology, according to the National School for Healthcare Science timetable in light of the move towards separating laboratories into on-site essential services laboratories and off-site hubs.
  • Improve retention of consultant-level staff by supporting fair, equitable retire and return legislation and press for the implementation of a long-term UK-wide solution to the NHS pension tax issue.
  • Key organisations to promote virology, building on increased awareness of and interest in the specialty resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Promote virology in medical undergraduates through the new undergraduate lecture series and the RCPath/Microbiology Society Medical Elective small grant scheme.
  • Promote pathology as a career for foundation doctors.

Download the report