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Shortage of cancer doctors puts NHS patients at risk

Published on 19/03/19 at 11:10am

A shortage of cancer doctors is putting patients at risk, according to a new report from the Royal College of Radiologists (RCR).

The study points to a growing workforce crisis in clinical oncology as it revealed an 18% shortfall in the number of clinical oncologists in 2018, set to grow to a 22% shortfall by 2023.

The current shortfall of 184 full time consultant clinical oncologists is set to grow to a shortfall of 272 by 2023.

Meanwhile cancer centres are struggling to recruit as they struggle to find suitable candidates to fill consultant vacancies.

This has led to a doubling in the number of vacant posts over the past five years. Strikingly more than half of the 70 clinical oncologist vacancies have remained unfilled for more than a year. Furthermore one in six cancer centres now have fewer consultants working for them than five years ago.

The shortages have led clinical oncologist to work longer hours, as one in four full time consultants are contracted to work more than 48 hours a week, many of whom do additional, unpaid overtime.

The crisis is expected to get worse in years to come as the number of oncologists leaving the profession is set to increase in the next four years. Currently 3.6% of consultants leave the profession each year. This number is set to rise to 4.6% by 2023.

The UK thus needs two times as many trainee oncologists in order to meet the minimum number of oncologists needed for 2023.

Incentivising those planning to retire at 60 to instead stay in their roles until age 65 would keep nearly 100 oncologists over the next five years.

Louis Goss

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