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Royal College of Physicians of London

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Patients now more likely to see stroke and other consultants on hospital admission

Patients are more likely to see a consultant on admission to hospital, due to the increase in numbers of consultants in acute medicine, according to the annual consultant census from the Federation of the Royal College of Physicians of the UK*.

The specialty of acute and general medicine has expanded by 23.3% in one year, reflecting the increasing importance of consultant physicians on the frontline of medical admissions.  NHS Trusts are recognising the benefits of consultant-delivered care in this relatively new specialty in coping with the increase in acute medical admissions.

Another specialty experiencing a large increase is stroke medicine – an 85.2% increase from 27 physicians to 50, mostly in England.  It is unclear if these posts are all entirely new or have been transferred from another specialty e.g. from geriatric medicine.  The census will aim to find this out next year.  This increase is excellent news for the care of stroke patients, and reflects the prioritisation of stroke care in Lord Darzi’s quality agenda.

The data was collected ten months ago, and at that time less than one third of consultants reported that they felt the European Working Time Directive could be implemented without compromising patient care.  The College has just collected data from consultants on staffing levels from one single day, 5 November 2009, to find out if there are staffing difficulties arising from the EWTD, and will be launching the results of this survey early in the New Year.

Consultant expansion across all specialties is running at 4.5%, and this includes some specialties which have contracted – geriatric medicine -1.6%, dermatology – -0.2%, and worryingly -7.7% in allergy, an already small specialty which has lost two posts in England, there being no allergy specialists in Scotland and Wales.  Other consultants treating patients with allergy include dermatologists, respiratory physicians, and immunologists.

Dr Andrew Goddard, RCP Director of Workforce, said:

‘The European Working Time Directive has reduced the number of junior doctors available to see patients admitted to hospital. Expansion of consultants is vital to ensure that patients get high quality care early. The census shows that this appears to be happening at the moment, but as public finances face a big squeeze over the next few years further expansion may be limited.  Unless we can maintain that expansion, patient care and safety will be compromised.’

Notes

*  The Federation of the Royal College of Physicians of the UK is a joint body of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow and the Royal College of Physicians of London.

Published on: December 10, 2009

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