The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (“the College”) has launched its health priorities for the UK general election, which contains a “shopping list” of workforce and public health policies. The College is calling on the new government to implement these policies to improve training and working conditions for doctors across the NHS, to attract people to medicine, and to ensure better care and public health outcomes for people in the UK.

The College, which represents over 13000 physicians across the UK and internationally, says that investment in our current and future workforce is vital to creating a culture where NHS staff have the time to care, time to train, and time to research. The recently published annual physicians’ census survey revealed continuing pressures on the medical workforce, demonstrated by ongoing problems with rota gaps, unfilled posts and high levels of reported sickness absence. The survey showed that there currently aren’t enough doctors to fill vacant posts.

In addition, the College says it is vital that the voice of all medical professionals is recognised by policy makers at the heart of the Brexit negotiations, as they are best placed to assess the impact of Brexit on their ability to treat patients. It is essential that no matter the outcome of Brexit, patient safety is not compromised, and vital supplies of medicine, vaccines, and medical devices can continue to flow into the UK.

On public health, the College wants the next government to:

  • Further prioritise the prevention of obesity, and retain so called “sin tax” policies including the “sugar tax”.
  • Implement Minimum Unit Pricing, which has shown early signs of success in Scotland, across the UK.
  • Continue to support targeted initiatives in order to see further long term improvements and reduce premature and preventable deaths.
  • Run visible campaigns to promote the messages that children should follow the NHS vaccination schedule for best protection.
  • Pursue policies which will address social determinants of ill health and improve circumstances which lead to poor health or social exclusion, including disability.

Professor Derek Bell OBE, President of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, said:

Currently, the medical workforce faces a number of challenges across the UK. Our Fellows and Members are telling us that factors such as rota gaps, early retirement, medical student dropout rates, poor working environment and the potential impact of a no deal Brexit have all affected NHS recruitment and retention in one way or another.

Whatever happens with Brexit, our next government must ensure that the NHS can continue to recruit and retain highly skilled EU medical staff – as well as skilled domestic and international medical staff - to care for the country’s patients. The next government must also prepare the UK so that medicines and vaccines can continue to flow, unhindered, into the UK.

At the same time, workload in acute hospitals has increased over the past decade, impacting on quality of care and resulting in less time to engage in medical training and clinical research. Greater pressure on doctors has contributed to increased need for consultant presence, poor morale, and insufficient time for service development.

While acute services will continue to be vital in ensuring quality patient care outcomes, the next government must not take their eye off the ball on public health. That is why our general election manifesto puts public health front and centre. We want to ensure that the progress we’ve made continues and that the UK remains a leader on public health.

64% of adults in the UK are overweight, 14.4% of adults in England smoke, and the gap in life expectancy between the wealthiest and poorest areas is still wider than we would like. We want the next government to back our public health policies on obesity, alcohol, smoking, vaccinations and health inequality so that we can become a healthier population over the next decade.

Paul Gillen

Contact: Paul Gillen 0131 247 3658
Further information: