24 June 2021

Our new report 'Rheumatology workforce: a crisis in numbers', reveals that:

  • Chronic workforce shortages mean departments lack sufficient staff to provide a safe level of care

  • Severe understaffing and high vacancy levels are leading to long waiting times and delays in care

  • It’s been found there aren’t enough consultants or specialist nurses and there’s poor access to other allied health professionals such as psychologists and pharmacists

  • These unacceptable shortages mean patients are experiencing progressively worse health, leading to unnecessary disability and pain.

Our President, Dr Sanjeev Patel, says: “Even before the global pandemic reached our shores, our rheumatology multidisciplinary teams were swimming against a tide of staff shortages and staggering vacancy rates. We need to act now to stop detrimental patient outcomes for the millions of people living with rheumatic disease in the UK.

"Creating a sustainable workforce with more consultants, more nurses and a fully staffed multi-disciplinary teams means more people with rheumatology conditions are able to stay in education, are kept in work and live better."

The report recommends that one rheumatology consultant is needed for every 60,000-80,000 people, and that there should be a specialist nurse for every consultant to meet demand and maintain safe waiting times. Only a minority of departments in the UK currently meet these ratios.

In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, consultant provision is unacceptably low, with one consultant per 100,000 people. Vacancy rates for rheumatology posts are high, exceeding 49% in some areas, and are greatest among consultants.

Report recommendations include:

  • Investment in the rheumatology workforce to secure long-term sustainability

  • Enhanced roles for allied health professionals and increasing numbers of pharmacists and nurses to ease the current crisis

  • Increasing exposure to rheumatology in training

Read the report