Latest RCR census highlights mounting crisis in clinical oncology workforce

Tuesday 8 November 2016

The Royal College of Radiologists (RCR) has published the results of its latest oncology workforce census. The report Clinical Oncology UK Workforce Census 2015 highlights an oncology workforce under strain and reveals an urgent need to address longstanding issues in workforce planning.

Some key findings of the 2015 census:

  • 28% of unfilled Consultant posts have been vacant for 12 months or longer. Many cancer centres are experiencing difficulties in recruiting new members of staff
  • Nearly 1 in 5 of the oncology workforce could retire in the next five years. In some UK regions the figure is as high as 26%
  • 67 additional full-time Consultants are required to cover the excess workload undertaken by the current workforce.
  • two thirds of the current trainees are female. Women are more likely than men to adopt less than full-time working patterns, meaning that while the size of the workforce may increase, the number of whole-time equivalent (WTE) oncologists may remain the same or even fall placing additional strain on already overstretched services.  

Commenting on the census findings, Dr David Bloomfield, Medical Director Professional Practice, RCR said:

"One in two people will be affected by cancer in their lifetimes. While cancer treatments are improving all the time, the complexity of planning and delivery of treatment is increasing too, which means more time is needed to plan each patient’s treatment. Patients are benefitting from a succession of effective treatments for advanced disease, often over many years. The clinical workforce is growing, but not quickly enough and the trends identified by our census reveal an oncology service moving steadily towards crisis. High-quality cancer care can only be achieved with sufficient numbers of oncologists and we are calling on Government and NHS bodies across the four nations to undertake rational, joint planning of the oncology workforce so that patient care does not suffer further."

Dr Bloomfield continued:

“What patients with cancer deserve is immediate and sustained investment in the front line oncology workforce allied to proper workforce planning. With an ageing population and rising incidence of cancer, it’s vital that the NHS has enough clinical oncologists to meet demand and to maximise the potential of new cancer treatment technologies to improve patient outcomes.”


Note for editors:

  1. Clinical Oncology UK Workforce Census 2015 The census describes and tracks the clinical oncology workforce nationally and gives data on consultant numbers and work patterns, on rates of workforce attrition due to retirement, and on how trainees transition into the consultant workforce.