BGS welcomes RCP call for action against ‘crisis in care’ for older people

03 March 2022

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has warned that an ‘avoidable crisis of care’ is looming for older people owing to a combination of staffing shortages and an ageing population.

Newly-released research analysis by the RCP has found that in England there is currently just one full-time equivalent (FTE) geriatrician per 8,031 over-65s among the general population.
However this number varies across local regions, with over-65s in the East Midlands the most under-resourced, sharing just one FTE geriatrician between 12,561 people.
But even in the area with the lowest ratio of geriatricians to older people, Central and North East London, there is still just one geriatrician per 3,254 people aged over 65.
The RCP findings, based on demographic data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), highlight that by 2040 there will be over 17 million people in the UK aged 65 and above, close to a quarter of the population. The RCP also warns that 48% of consultant geriatricians in England are set to retire within the next 10 years.
The RCP and the BGS, alongside more than 100 other medical organisations, are supporting an amendment to the Health and Care Bill requiring the government to publish regular, independent assessments of workforce requirements for the NHS and social care system now and in future.

Professor Andrew Goddard, President of the Royal College of Physicians, said:

I have dedicated my career to working in the NHS – a service that I am fiercely proud of - and yet it scares me to wonder what might happen should I need care as I get older. There simply aren’t enough doctors to go round, not least within geriatrics.

“The workforce crisis we’re facing is largely down to an astonishing lack of planning. All successful organisations rely on long-term workforce planning to meet demand and it’s absurd that we don’t do this for the NHS and social care system. The government needs to accept the amendment put forward by Baroness Cumberlege and make workforce planning a priority.”

Dr Jennifer Burns, President of the British Geriatrics Society, said:

These figures show very clearly the current nationwide shortage of geriatricians - a situation that will only get worse with the predictable rise in the numbers of older people across the UK needing healthcare.

“It is absolutely vital that these fundamental issues around the recruitment, retention, development and support of the workforce are addressed, and that there is a properly-resourced strategy for future needs. The British Geriatrics Society stands with the RCP in strongly supporting the amendment to the Health and Care Bill.”

Dr Amit Arora, BGS Vice-President Workforce, said:

At the heart of good healthcare for older people is a skilled, committed, multidisciplinary workforce. Planning ahead for the long term in a realistic way is crucial to ensure that we have sufficient specialists in place across all parts of the UK, and that training, development and support sustain that workforce. Now is the time to prepare for the reality of a massive growth in the number of older people needing healthcare.’’