11 April 2008
The British Medical Association has asked Health Secretary Alan Johnson to support its call to reverse a slowdown in hospital consultant recruitment.
The BMA said 'many more' consultants were needed to enhance patient care and fulfil government pledges, such as the 18-week referral-to-treatment target.
Its call comes despite a 57% rise in the number of consultants in the NHS in England in the past ten years. According to the Information Centre for Health and Social Care this rose from 21,474 in 1997 to 33,674 last year.
However, many hospital doctors who have recently completed their training have found it difficult to find a consultant post.
The BMA said this was due to freezes or a slowdown in recruitment following financial difficulties. With NHS England confident of delivering an aggregate surplus of around £2bn in 2007/08, the time had come to take action, it said.
Consultant expansion was needed most in six specialties, including trauma, paediatrics and obstetrics. However, BMA consultants' leader Jonathan Fielden insisted more senior doctors were needed in all disciplines.