Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (OMFS) Consultant Workforce in the UK: reducing consultant numbers resulting from recruitment issues, pension pressures, changing job-plans, and demographics when combined with the COVID backlog in elective surgery, requires urgent action

Published:October 30, 2021DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bjoms.2021.10.011

      Abstract

      Mean retirement age for UK doctors is 59.6 years, giving the average OMFS consultant approximately 20 years of practice. Current pension tax regulations, new consultant posts typically restricted to a maximum of 10 sessions (40 hours), increasing proportions of consultants working less than full time (LTFT), all combined with the backlog of elective care created by COVID-19 will create a significant gap between workforce capacity and clinical demand. The age of current OMFS consultants was estimated using the date of their primary medical/dental qualification. Changes in job plans were estimated using data from the BAOMS Workforce Census and from recently advertised posts. Reports of unfilled posts were collated by OMFS Regional Specialty Professional Advisors (RSPAs). First degree dates were identified for 476 OMFS substantive consultant posts. Estimated current average age of OMFS consultants was 52.7 years (minimum 35.9, maximum 72.1), 75th centile age 59.0 and 23% of the current consultant workforce above the average retirement age for doctors. The 10 sessions of new OMFS consultants posts is significantly less than existing consultants' average of 12.1 sessions (48.4 hours). Unfilled consultant posts in Great Britain are 13% of total compared to 20% in Northern Ireland and Ireland. Many (23%) of the OMFS consultant workforce are above average retirement age. Forty-hour contracts; new consultants working LTFT; and early loss of senior colleagues because of pension pressure will reduce NHS’ capacity to treat OMFS disorders and injuries. This paper suggests increasing consultant posts, increasing trainee numbers, and actively retaining senior surgeons to maintain capacity.

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