Health Insight March 2001:|
Plan to boost consultant numbers
Health secretary Alan Milburn has announced an expansion in the NHS budget for the training of qualified staff, which he said would lead to an increase in the number of senior health professionals, especially consultants - of whom he estimated there would be fifty per cent more within the next ten years. During the same period the number of midwives and physiotherapists would also rise, by forty-four per cent and fifty-nine per cent respectively. The new funding will amount to an extra £250m, an eleven per cent rise on the present figure.
In a further move to boost consultant numbers, Mr Milburn has also announced improved salaries. The average consultant, ten years after first being appointed could earn as much as £82,500, almost £20,000 more than under the current arrangements.
The Royal College of Physicians says its annual 'consultant census' shows that consultant physicians are working much more than their contracted hours - to the extent that, if they were to work only those hours, an extra 2,627 consultants would have to recruited to make up the difference. There are currently 5,360 consultant physicians in England, Wales and Northern Ireland; some work part-time, so the whole-time equivalent is 4,454. Some thirteen per cent work sixty-five hours per week - well over the limit of forty-eight hours set by the European Working Time Directive. The RCP says the figures demonstrate that more consultants are needed, particularly in the specialities that most often care for emergency admissions: cardiology, respiratory medicine, gastroenterology, diabetes.
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