Doctors are warning that UK paediatric care is at breaking point because of growing staff shortages across the country.
According to the workforce survey, published by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, than more than half of paediatric units are failing to meet recommended staffing standards, leaving 89 percent of clinical directors concerned about how child health services will cope in the next six months (up from 78 percent last year).
The survey found that more than one in four general paediatric posts at senior trainee level are now vacant, and that 60 percent of tier 1* and 77 percent of tier 2** rotas, which are mainly made up of junior doctors, have not been able to attract the full complement of 10 full-time staff.
Commenting on the findings, Dr Simon Clark, workforce officer at the Royal College, warned that the paediatric workforce is at breaking point and children's healthcare is increasingly being compromised.
"There is no escaping the fact that an increase in junior and consultant posts is urgently needed, coupled with a radical re-design of services," he said.
However, because it can take eight years to complete paediatric training and as long to implement service alterations, the RCPCH has made a number of immediate recommendations to help sustain services for children in the short-term, including a breakdown of barriers to multi-disciplinary working, an increase in children's nurses and immediate opportunities for GP colleagues to access child health training.
According to Dr Clark, continuing to deliver the service as it currently stands is not sustainable. "I urge decision makers to increase trainee and consultant numbers, better map training places to demand, and plan emergency and non-emergency rotas well in advance".
*Tier 1 rotas are mainly made up of trainees with a small number of Advanced Nurse Practitioners (ANP), Specialty and Associated Specialty Grade (SASG) and Trust doctors; Tier 2 rotas are mainly consist of more senior trainees, with a small number of ANP, SASG and Trust doctors. Tier 3 is made up of consultants.