Hospitals in rural and coastal Britain are struggling to recruit senior medical staff, leaving many worryingly “under-doctored”, The Guardian reports a major new report reveals. Some hospitals in those areas appointed no consultants last year, raising fears that the National Health Service (NHS) may become a two-tier service across the UK with care dependent on where people live. Disclosure of the stark urban-rural split emerged in a census of consultant posts across the UK undertaken by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), whose president, Andrew Goddard, has warned that patients’ lives may be at risk because some hospitals do not have enough senior doctors.
Just 13% of consultants appointed in England last year went to hospitals serving mainly rural or coastal areas, with the other 87% being hired by those with mainly urban populations. “The results of our census are an incredibly alarming indication of the huge disparities in care across the country. Some rural areas are so severely ‘under-doctored’ that patient lives could potentially be at risk,” Goddard is quoted in the report as saying.
“The sheer dearth of senior doctors in rural communities goes to the heart of the crisis facing our NHS; there simply aren’t enough doctors to treat the number of people in need.”
Hospitals everywhere are finding it increasingly hard to find suitably qualified consultants. Overall last year hospitals could not appoint someone for 43% of posts advertised. Unfillable consultant vacancies included 25% of posts for cardiologists, 44% for neurologists and 47% for oncologists.
According to the report the FCP fears that hospitals are giving up bothering to advertise some consultant posts, as there are so few senior doctors to fill them. The NHS in England alone is short of almost 10,000 medics, official figures show.The Guardian report RCP consultant posts report