Unless the government commits to publishing an evidence-based workforce plan, the NHS will remain “woefully underprepared” to cope with our ageing population, the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) is warning.

The news comes as figures published by the RCP reveal that there is an equivalent of just one full-time geriatrician per 8,031 people over the age of 65 in the UK.

The extent of the shortages varies greatly across the country, with data from the East Midlands revealing there is just one full-time geriatrician per 12,561 people over the age of 65, compared to one full-time geriatrician per 3,254 people aged over 65 in Central and North East London.

On top of these workforce shortages, the population is ageing at a rapid rate, with The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimating that by 2040, there will be 17 million people in the UK aged 65 and above. This means nearly a quarter (24%) of the population will likely require geriatric care.

With nearly half (48%) of consultant geriatricians set to retire within the next 10 years, the RCP is warning that we are “sleepwalking into an avoidable crisis of care for older people.”

RCP are supporting an amendment to the Health and Care Bill

To ensure that our older population is adequately cared for, the RCP together with more than 100 medical organisations are supporting an amendment to the Health and Care Bill which would require the government to publish regular, independent assessments of the numbers of staff the NHS and social care system need now and in future.

Andrew Goddard, president of the RCP, said it is “absurd” that we do not rely on long-term workforce planning for the NHS and social care system, as this is the basis for all successful care plans.

For this reason, he says the government “needs to accept the amendment put forward by Baroness Cumberlege and make workforce planning a priority.”
The British Geriatrics Society (BGS) is standing with the RCP and “strongly supports” the amendment to the Health and Care Bill.

Dr Jennifer Burns, president of the BGS, said the shortage of geriatricians will only worsen over coming years, and for this reason it is “vital” that “fundamental issues around the recruitment, retention, development and support of the workforce are addressed.”