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Mary Ann LumsdenMary Ann Lumsden
RCOG Senior Vice President, Strategic Development
Chair, Workforce Task Group

Ensuring the obstetrics and gynaecology (O&G) workforce is equipped and supported to deliver the highest levels of care to women and girls is a key strategic priority for the RCOG. In 2017 we published our first O&G Workforce Report outlining the challenges facing our profession and the action needed to address them.

Over the past 12 months we have been engaging with key stakeholders including workforce planners and government bodies to ensure the concerns of our profession are heard and, most importantly, understood. Although there is more work to be done we are already beginning to see these discussions bear fruit.

At an average of 30%, attrition from the O&G training programme is one of the highest of any specialty. Understanding why this is the case so we can reduce and mitigate further attrition has been a key priority for us over the past year. Focus groups with trainees explored the reasons many had considered leaving the training programme as well as their suggestions on how best to improve experiences going forward. Among the causes are poor work-life balance, bullying and undermining and the absence of a team structure.

One of our first achievements was the reintroduction of recruitment at ST3 in England. Although this doesn’t address all of our rota gap issues it does help to plug gaps created by trainees leaving the specialty training programme in years one and two.

Many doctors will at some point in their career choose to take time out, whether to gain valuable experience elsewhere, to explore research and training opportunities or to raise and support their families. Returning after a period of absence can be daunting, with some choosing not to return at all. To address this we have launched a Return to Work Toolkit to bring doctors up to date with developments and changes in practice.

Another significant step has been the establishment of an SAS/Trust Doctor Advisory Group, led by a new SAS/Trust Doctor Lead. The role that SAS and Trust doctors play in delivering O&G services, and their range of skills and competencies, is pivotal but often little understood – especially by workforce planners. This means that SAS/Trust Doctors are not receiving the professional development opportunities and career support they need, leading to attrition and the unnecessary loss of much needed and valued skills from the workforce. The new advisory group will be making recommendations on how to address this.

Using data captured through our annual workforce surveys we have been helping to shape maternity workforce strategies. It is now acknowledged that as a specialty we are not heading towards an oversupply of O&G consultants, something that workforce planners had previously mooted but not something the vast majority of us can relate to in our daily practice. In addition it is also now understood that the majority of doctors in our specialty do both obstetrics and gynaecology, which must be factored into both maternity and gynaecology workforce planning models if we are to accurately predict the number of doctors required to provide these services, now and in the future.

Thank you to everyone involved in our work to date and to those who continue to provide us with valuable insights through our annual workforce surveys. The information you provide is essential to our work and is making a real and tangible difference to the lives of many within our profession and not least to the women we serve.

Mary Ann Lumsden
Senior Vice President, Strategic Development
Chair, Workforce Task Group