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RCOG release: Medical workforce census published

News 20 September 2013

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) publishes its most recent medical workforce census results today. The census examines data provided by College tutors, who co-ordinate training and education within trusts, at hospital units across the UK in 2012/13.

In total, 203 hospital units responded with an average of 3938 deliveries per year. The total number of consultants working in the NHS in the UK during this period is 2215 with an average number of 10.91 consultants in post at each unit.

The majority of units (191) have middle grade doctors providing 24-hour labour ward cover. Middle grade doctors are those who are in the intermediate to advanced stages of their training. These doctors have usually completed at least four out of the nine years of postgraduate medical training. Junior grade doctors provide cover in 176 units followed by consultants providing cover in 125 units, specialty doctors providing cover in 123 units and senior middle grade providing cover in 66 units.

Consultants are present on the labour ward 59.15 hours per week on average (range 0-116) with four units providing over 98 hours consultant presence per week.

The census looked at the times of day that consultants were present on the labour ward. The majority have consultants present in the morning (197 units) and afternoon (198 units) with 124 units having consultants present at the weekend, 121 units in the evening and 35 overnight.

Mr Ian Currie, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) Honorary Secretary, said:

“In previous years the census has included a large amount of data, however, this year we decided to streamline the census and have fewer questions for College tutors to answer in order to receive a high return rate and provide a clearer picture of the workforce numbers.

“When interpreting the census, the data needs to be taken in context, for example units vary greatly in size and location, which can impact the way it is staffed by doctors.

“The number of consultants in post is stable and we are seeing an increase in consultant presence on the labour ward with the majority having 60-98 hours consultant presence. We are also seeing greater consultant presence at weekends.

“This latest census shows that the specialty is moving in the right direction, however, there is still the need to move towards 24/7 consultant presence in the larger units to ensure women at any time of day or night are receiving the best possible care.”


The full report can be found here.

For further information, please contact the RCOG Media and PR team on +44 20 7772 6300 or email


The RCOG published the working party report Tomorrow’s Specialist in 2012 which called for increased consultant presence, an expansion of the service and a specialist workforce providing on-site care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The RCOG published the report Safer Childbirth: Minimum Standards for the Organisation and Delivery of Care in Labour in 2007, which looked at staffing levels on labour wards.


  • Labour ward cover: The number of hours per week a doctor is either present or on call on the labour ward.
  • Consultant presence: The number of hours a consultant is present on the labour ward per week. For example 98 hours consultant presence means a unit has a consultant present on the labour ward for 98 hours spread over a week. 24/7 consultant presence is the equivalent of 168 hours per week.
  • College Tutor: The role of the College Tutor is to coordinate obstetrics and gynaecology training and education in an individual trust.