The size and composition of the consultant workforce at any time is largely the result of plans made 10 to 20 years ago due to the time it takes to train entry-level doctors and for some of those doctors to reach consultant level. The difficulties of planning the consultant workforce so far ahead are compounded by new technologies, changing demographic needs, and innovations in care models, all of which can lead to large changes in demand for consultants, especially in particular specialties. An important influence in the near future will be the move to seven day working. The resulting pressure on demand would potentially require an increase in the number of consultants.
The supply of and demand for consultants have increased since the late 1990s. Despite expansion in the overall consultant workforce keeping pace with activity, shortages are apparent in some specialties. Difficulties in recruiting consultants have led to increased spending on locums in diagnostic services.
Several factors could cause shortages, for instance, demand may fluctuate due to changing demographics or changes in how services are delivered. Some specialties may also be less attractive to newly qualified doctors.
Workforce planning is essential to the provision of an efficient, high quality pathology service. The role of the College is to collate data from monitoring appointments of consultant and SAS grade pathologists and conducting direct workforce surveys. This enables us to inform decisions made by Health Education England (HEE) and other relevant professional groups in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and to advise on trends in recruitment in pathology specialties.
The Joint RCPath and British Infection Association (BIA) Workforce Focus Group is currently preparing an updated Microbiology and Virology workload document.
There is an annual Workforce Working Group, Chaired by the Assistant Registrar, which directs workforce planning.
Effective workforce planning ensures the right numbers of staff in the right place at the right time.
Getting the right people, with the right skills in pathology services is vital to patient care. Find out about the work of the College's Workforce Planning Department.