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2014–15 census (UK consultants and higher specialty trainees)

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This is the 2014–15 census and survey of the consultant and higher specialty trainee (HST) physician workforce of the UK. The census of consultant physicians has now been running for over 20 years, and the census of HSTs has been running for 8 years. 

The census was coordinated by the Medical Workforce Unit of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) on behalf of the Federation of the Royal Colleges of Physicians. Census forms were sent out electronically to all UK consultants who were in post on 30 September 2014. Those who had not responded by December 2014 were sent paper forms. The RCP verified consultant numbers by checking with each specialty representative and then telephoning each trust, so that headcount data are accurate. HST data were obtained from an electronic census that was sent to all registrars on the Joint Royal Colleges of Physicians Training Board (JRCPTB) database.  

The 2014–15 consultant census form had a 56.6% return rate, of which 79.3% were completed online. Forms for the HST census were only sent online; it had a return rate of 36.7%. Data for headcount of the workforce, demographics, changes in expansion, etc, were not reliant on completed forms and thus represent 100% of the workforce.

The primary areas of focus for the 2014–15 census can be found in the attached documents. Please download the census to see the results and look at these findings in detail.

  • Annual expansion in consultant numbers has continued to slow.
  • The number of higher specialty trainees has fallen.
  • There were significant problems in appointing new consultants (nearly always due to a lack of candidates).
  • The increasing healthcare demands of the population – for both specialty and generalist skills – exceed the expansion rate of the medical workforce, and the number of trainees is insufficient to meet the number of available consultant posts across the UK.
  • For several years geriatric medicine and acute medicine have had the largest number of posts advertised, but also consistently the largest number of unfilled posts.
  • Geographical variation in the success rate of consultant appointments has continued.
  • A significant number of consultants reported “significant gaps in the trainees’ rotas such that patient care was compromised”.  Many consultants regularly “act down” to cover these and a larger number have acted down as a “one off”.
  • The proportion of women in the medical workforce has continued to grow with women choosing specialties with more predictable hours. Less-than-full-time working has also continued to increase.
  • Most consultants report routinely working at weekends, and support for 7-day working is highest among this group.
  • In spite of sustained pressures and demands, the overwhelming majority of consultants and HSTs always or often enjoy their jobs.

We welcome your feedback about the format and content of the census report and dashboards. Please email with your comments or suggestions at mwucenus@rcplondon.ac.uk

Who's involved


  • Medical Workforce Unit of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP)
  • Federation of the Royal Colleges of Physicians