The 2022 Consultant Census Report

The 2022 Consultant Census Report has been jointly published by the College, alongside our colleagues in London and Glasgow. This year’s census also includes staff, associate specialist and specialty (SAS) doctors. Over 5,000 consultants and SAS doctors working across the UK contributed to the census.

The census highlights that the number of women has increased in the consultant workforce year on year and that women have represented 50% of the HST workforce since 2013. The percentage of female consultants is currently 46%.

The census also highlights the following:

  • 58% of physicians reported consultant vacancies in their department.
  • Consultants working full time had a median of 10 contracted programmed activities (PAs) but in reality worked a median of 11 PAs. For those working LTFT, there was a median of 8 contracted PAs while the median number of PAs worked overall was 9 PAs.
  • The main reason for consultants working over their contracted hours was because of administration related to clinical workload (68%). 54% of consultants said that direct patient facing work had resulted in working longer than their contracted hours. These data represent the impact of pressures on consultants.
  • 69% of consultants reported daily or weekly rota gaps, while 73% felt that rota gaps have a direct impact on patient care, mostly impacting access to outpatient care. 
  • It was reported by 81% of respondents that a consultant vacancy had gone out to advert resulting in no appointment.
  • 42% of consultants did not take their full annual leave entitlement last year, mainly due to being unable to organise cover.
  • 30% of consultants and 25% higher specialty trainees (HST) are working less than full time (LTFT); with the majority of those in the 65+ age group (66%). Those in the 34 or under age group represent 15% of those working LTFT, rising to 32% for the 35-39 and 40-44 age groups. It is expected that LTFT will continue to become more popular among doctors, reflective of increasing pressures due to a variety of factors including vacancies.
  • 53% of consultants said that they wish to work fewer PAs in the future, with 35% saying that they wanted to work the same number of PAs in the future. 3% wanted to work more PAs.

This detailed annual census is a vital source of data on the physician workforce in the UK. The College will continue to use these data to lobby governments throughout the UK to prioritise investment in the medical workforce, and to focus on supporting the recruitment, retention and return of consultants in our health service where appropriate.

This means providing additional medical school places and placements, as well as practical support for those consultants who offer specialist training in placements, ensuring that they have the time within their own jobs plans to provide this. It also means doing more to ensure that physicians have adequate rest and refreshment facilities and sufficient administrative support so that they can focus on delivering safe patient care.

All of this must be underpinned by a comprehensive, long-term workforce strategy that will help meet patient demand in the future as our elderly population continues to increase significantly. This is a welcome development, as peoples’ life expectancy has improved over across a number of decades.

Commenting, Dr Marion Slater, Consultant Physician and census lead for the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, said:

Year on year, the census data demonstrate the increasing risk to the safe provision of patient care, with an alarming and rising proportion of unfilled consultant posts and consultants approaching retirement.

Each year, we highlight the current workforce crisis, and the lack of robust and sustainable plan to address it. Workforce shortages undermine patient safety and staff wellbeing. It is very concerning that 20% of respondents are at risk of burnout and that more than 40% were unable to take their full annual leave entitlement. We must ensure more is done to look after those who look after us when we are unwell or need help.

Just as we said last year, to ensure safe, sustainable, high-quality patient care and safe, sustainable careers in healthcare, it is vital that there is a focus on health service recovery and redesign – as well as workforce planning and training. This must include independent projections of workforce, prioritisation of time to train, meaningful engagement with patients and staff, and a clear line of accountability. The status quo is unsustainable - it will continue to risk patient and staff safety and wellbeing.


1. The census toolkit can be read here.