Campaigning to make sure that the UK has a medical workforce that meets the needs of patients is one of the RCP’s four policy and campaigns priorities for 2023-2026, chosen in consultation with RCP members and RCP Council.

  • We will campaign for an increase in the number of medical students and we will also make the case for publicly available data on the number of staff needed relative to patient demand. 
  • We will work with others to improve the experience of training and employment to improve retention and morale and to make the UK attractive and accessible to doctors and trainees from overseas.
  • We will encourage more opportunities for participation in medicine and support work to tackle racism and other forms of discrimination in medicine.
  • We will support the regulation of physician associates and promote the profession.
  • We will promote better multidisciplinary team working and a safe, reflective learning culture.

Workforce is the biggest challenge facing the NHS. Our population is ageing, an increasing number of people live with multiple health conditions and health inequality is growing. As a result, the NHS is treating more patients than ever before. But the supply of doctors, nurses and other clinicians has not kept up with rising patient demand.

The results of the RCP’s latest annual census found that 58% of consultant physicians reported having vacant consultant posts, with an average of 2.2 vacant posts per department. Too few staff means it takes longer for patients to get the right care. It also has an impact on existing staff – according to the 2022 RCP census, almost a fifth (18%) of consultant physicians said they almost never feel in control of their workload and 41% said they worked excessive hours. 

We need more doctors as part of a wider expansion of the health and care workforce and to retain more of the hardworking staff we already have. Retention must be a priority, including by creating more flexible and supportive working environments, with time off for significant life events, getting rotas in good time, improved IT equipment, access to affordable and flexible childcare and time for research and teaching.

Medical Workforce Unit

The Medical Workforce Unit (MWU) conducts the annual census of consultant physicians and higher specialty trainees in the UK, which provides essential information for all our workforce planning and surrounding strategy.

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Hospital Staff Working

Key outputs

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Chief Registrar Programme: recruitment guidance for NHS organisations

This page provides information for NHS organisations interested in recruiting chief registrars.

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Census data toolkits

Please scroll to the bottom of the page to download the census data toolkits. The three Royal Colleges of Physicians have conducted a census of consultant physicians for many decades. It provides us with rich data that help us understand the make-up and state of the medical workforce.

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RCP briefing for Westminster Hall debate on NHS staffing levels

The RCP has issued a briefing ahead of a Westminster Hall debate on NHS staffing levels tabled by Margaret Greenwood MP.

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2020 and 2021 survey of medical certificate of completion of training (CCT) holders’ career progression

This short report summarises the results of our twelfth and thirteenth surveys on the experiences of and outcomes for certificate of completion of training (CCT) holders within a year of gaining their CCT. Physicians in 30 medical specialties in the UK who gained their CCT during 2019 and 2020 were asked about their current working situation, experience of training and transition to a consultant role.

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2022 survey of medical certificate of completion of training (CCT) holders’ career progression

This is the 14th survey reporting the experiences of, and outcomes for, physicians within a year of gaining their CCT (certificate of completion of training). It covers physicians who gained their CCT in 2021 in all 30 medical specialties in the UK.

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RCP view on the NHS workforce: short- and medium-term solutions

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has published a new position paper – supported by the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow – setting out recommendations for short- and medium-term measures that should be taken to help address the workforce challenges facing the NHS.