The 2020 Consultant Census Report has been jointly published by the College, alongside our colleagues in London and Glasgow. Almost 4000 consultants working across the UK contributed to the census.

The 2020 report highlights that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the NHS, but the pressure on its systems and medical workforce as shown by the 2020 census are not new. The number of healthcare workers needed to meet patient demand continues to significantly outnumber the supply.

Key findings from the report include:

  • 55% of consultants reported that their morale was worse during the pandemic and only 5% reported that it was better; 69% reported that morale was worse in their department and only 4% reported that it was better;
  • Consultants estimate that they work 11% more than they are contracted to work, mainly due to their clinical workload;
  • 36% of consultants described being in control of their workload only ‘sometimes’ or ‘almost never’. 38% said that they worked excessive hours or had an excessive workload ‘almost always’ or ‘most of the time’;
  • 35% of consultants had experienced being undermined and 35% had witnessed a colleague being undermined, usually by managers or fellow consultants. This was more common among women and consultants from an ethnic minority;
  • For the past 8 years, barely half (52%) of advertised consultant posts were filled, mostly due to a lack of suitable applicants.

In relation to COVID-19 specifically, 71% of consultant physicians were involved in the direct clinical care of patients with COVID-19, with 41% working in a different clinical area from normal during the pandemic (mostly medical wards or admission units). 21% had tested positive for COVID-19.

Only 72% were given a COVID-19 risk assessment. 55% reported that their morale was worse during the pandemic and only 5% that it was better. 69% reported that morale was worse in their department and only 4% that it was better.

Despite this, job satisfaction remains remarkably resilient. Consultants reported finding their specialty work satisfying as in previous censuses, as 85% said that they were always or were often satisfied with their job.

It is clear that while there are many challenges facing doctors, they largely remain satisfied with their job. However, it is vital that satisfaction is not taken for granted. The College will continue to lobby government to do more to invest in the medical workforce – ranging from more medical school places and placements, to adequate rest and refreshment facilities. Underpinning all of this must be an effective workforce strategy to meet patient demand now, and in the future.

Commenting, Dr Marion Slater, Elected Member of Council for Recently Appointed Consultants, said:

The 2020 Consultant Census report provides clear evidence that we continue to have too few doctors to provide high quality, equitable and accessible patient care to our population.

We must ensure that our chronic workforce shortages are now addressed as part of a sustainable and deliverable plan for our NHS, as we redesign our services in response not only to the COVID-19 pandemic but to achieve the NHS’ goal of a becoming a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions organisation.

We welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to funding additional trainee doctor posts and encourage the other UK nations to respond to ensure equitable access to patient care and to career development across the UK.

More must be done to support the wellbeing of our medical workforce, with over a third of consultants reporting having been undermined or having witnessed a colleague being undermined. We must ensure that we truly support our diverse workforce as figures show that experience of being undermined is more reported in women and consultants from an ethnic minority.

The College is committed to promoting equality, diversity and inclusivity in the medical workforce. We will continue to work hard to ensure that we are reflecting the diversity of our Fellows and Members both in the UK and internationally - and that we are raising awareness and progressing solutions.