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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

2013 census of psychiatric staffing

The Royal College of Psychiatrists 2013 census of psychiatric staffing was conducted at the end of 2013 and gives a snapshot of staffing as of 31 December 2013. 

We are pleased that 78.9% of NHS trusts responded which is very similar to the 81% response rate in 2011. This continued high response rate probably reflects the conduct of the census through the College division offices with their closer links to organisations and professionals within their geographic domain. We had less success with our response rate from the independent sector, and the College will seek to secure better engagement with the independent sector before the next census takes place in 2015.

There are limits on how much we can generalise from the census as not all trusts responded, notwithstanding that, the census is a general guide to what is happening with the psychiatric workforce.

The numbers of consultant and SAS doctor posts reported is slightly higher than in 2011. However the increase in locum consultant and locum SAS doctors’ posts appears to be a increasing trend, which the College will continue to monitor.

The 93.9% increase in vacant and unfilled consultant posts since 2011 appears dramatic and is concerning, should it be sustained. Not all trusts have responded, but this suggests a shift in recruitment, with London having the highest percentage of vacant consultant posts. It is however a snap shot and we will continue to monitor vacancies. For SAS doctors the number of vacant and unfilled posts is less dramatic but the figures we have suggest an increase of 30% in vacant or unfilled posts. This rise in vacant posts may reflect a combination of short term cost savings and, in the case of SAS doctors, the ongoing recruitment difficulties. These vacancies may be contributing to the experience on the ground of an increase in day to day workload and cuts to resources.

Trusts continue to report job plans of above 10PAs as very much the exception – this almost certainly represents a hidden cut in manpower, taking account of the number of vacant posts.

The consultant retirement number of 112 for the year September 2012 to September 2013 is less than reported for the previous year. We anticipated an increase in retirement numbers as a result of pension changes, but thus far we do not have the evidence that this has been the case. This is an area the College will continue to gather intelligence on over the next two years and we will work with HEE and other stakeholders to ensure that the supply of psychiatrists is sufficient to meet the demand for high quality services.

Finally we are grateful to the staff in all the division offices for their work in liaising with trusts, to colleagues in the independent sector, to Julian Ryder and Nikki Cochrane in the College's Training and Workforce Unit for their coordination of the overall process and to Adrian Husbands for his analysis of the data and production of this report. Thanks are also due to medical directors and human resources managers for the time they have given to this task.

2015 census of psychiatric staffing

The College will run the latest workforce census in the autumn of 2015. All NHS trusts and independent and third sector providers will be contacted in September 2015 and asked to complete an online workforce survey. Please contact the workforce helpdesk with any queries.


Dr Aideen O'Halloran

Workforce Lead, Royal College of Psychiatrists


Census results from previous years:

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