Double pressure of winter and workforce shortages highlighted in new report

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) has today launched a report in response to severe workforce pressures faced by paediatric units across the UK.

The ‘Workforce Briefing Winter 2018’ report has revealed that patient demand is strongly outstripping the supply of doctors as the usual seasonal increase combined with a rise in children’s emergency admissions is placing unprecedented demand on services.

The report reveals chronic understaffing in clinics with demand for paediatric consultants in the UK around 21% higher than 2017 levels with clinics falling 850 consultants short of being able to provide a safe and sustainable service. Meanwhile, with winter pressures hitting the service, paediatricians across the country are reporting that staff are being pulled from treating children to deliver care to adults.

The report, which sets out headline results in advance of the full report being published in January, also reveals:

Between 2013/14 and 2016/17 there was a 13% rise in children’s emergency admissions in both England and Scotland. In Wales, this number increased to 17%, which doctors say is placing unprecedented demand on services.

Professor Russell Viner, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said “Paediatrics is a family friendly specialty and we pride ourselves in having a work ethos that reflects that. This is one of the many reasons why so many of our doctors choose to work less than full time. Therefore, we must take this into account when we calculate the number of doctors needed to train and work in paediatrics. Across *tier 1 rotas, 11.1% of posts remain unfilled, increasing to 14.6% for middle grade rotas, resulting in an overstretched workforce who find themselves exhausted and at risk of becoming sick themselves.”

“In reality, due to the modern style of working our doctors quite rightly favour, we have the equivalent of ¾ of each doctor employed, available to actually deliver care. That’s why we urgently need hundreds more, allowing paediatrics to be a modern career choice and one that fosters the health and wellbeing of our members and our patients.”

Dr Simon Clark, Workforce Officer for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said:

“The winter pressures survey highlights just how important investment in the whole child health workforce is. Our survey shows that nurse shortages are the biggest staffing problem faced by emergency departments and paediatric wards in winter, and this leads to bed closures. If we do not have the beds, we cannot treat the patients and that means children are missing out on important care.”

“The winter months are known to make children vulnerable to illness so to learn that staff are being removed from paediatrics to support adult patients is completely unacceptable. Children are equally as vulnerable as the elderly at this time of year and should not be treated as second class citizens.”