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

Royal College of Psychiatrists workforce census 2017

The latest Royal College of Psychiatrists workforce census of psychiatric staffing was run between April and September 2017 and provides a detailed analysis of the consultant and specialty doctor workforce in psychiatry across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. The College is pleased that 79% of NHS organisations responded to the workforce census questionnaire.

Summary of findings

A brief overview of the main findings is available in the summary of the 2017 workforce census. More detailed analysis is set out in the report of the full census report for 2017 but the headlines are:

  • Levels of growth in filled consultant posts are largely static.
  • There is an ongoing rise in the reported number of vacant or unfilled consultant posts across the UK, up from 5% (2013), 7% (2015) to 9% (2017).
  • Vacancies in consultant posts are most acute in General, CAMHS, Old Age and Intellectual (Learning) Disability psychiatry.
  • There has been a sharp increase in the use of locum specialty doctors, a reflection of the ongoing recruitment difficulties at that grade.
  • A wide variation in the gender balance across different psychiatric specialities.

The long anticipated increase in retirement numbers as a result of pension changes has not yet become an eventuality – this is an area that the College, along with others such as Health Education England, will continue to monitor and gather intelligence on, to ensure that the supply of psychiatrists is sufficient to meet the demand for high quality services.


We are grateful to the staff in all the division offices for their work in liaising with NHS trusts and health boards, to colleagues in the independent sector, and to Julian Ryder in the College's Professional Standards Department for the management of the overall process, analysis of the data and production of this report. Thanks are also due to medical directors and other staff in mental health trusts across the UK for the time and effort they have given to this task.

Dr Aideen O'Halloran

Workforce Lead, Royal College of Psychiatrists


Census results from previous years:

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