Taking our case to Government

Published: 03/12/2021
Dr Fiona Donald

RCoA President

Simply put: the NHS could not function without anaesthetists. Unfortunately, as most of you know all too well, our profession is under pressure. Our workforce is overstretched, waiting lists are growing, morale is low, and worries about pensions and lack of flexibility in job plans are causing experienced staff to leave or reduce their hours. For all these reasons it is vital that Governments, and NHS bodies across the UK, take action.

Through our Anaesthesia – fit for the future project, the College has been influencing at the very highest levels to get these issues sorted. Over the past year we’ve been engaging with senior NHS leaders, Members of Parliament, the Scottish Government, the Welsh Senedd, the Northern Ireland Assembly, and 10 Downing Street to advocate on behalf of our members – and we fully intend to keep the pressure up.

A couple of weeks ago, as a result of our engagement work, Ed Davey MP grilled the Health Minister Edward Argar in the House of Commons about what steps he was taking to address anaesthetic workforce shortages. You can see the question and answer here.

Even more recently, Lord Hunt asked a series of questions in the House of Lords on issues that are of concern to us, including on:



and pensions

This builds on our programme of parliamentary engagement around the Government’s spending review, our presence at party conference events in October, our report on the retention challenges in Anaesthesia, and the many meetings we have had with key stakeholders over the past 12 months.

Getting our messages into the ears of politicians and policy makers is not always easy but is vital if we are going to persuade them to make the changes that we, and the patients we care for, urgently need.

The responses from Ministers have been mixed, but there is a lot to be encouraged by. It finally seems that our issues are being acknowledged and we have successfully raised the profile of the specialty and the College as a key player in these discussions over the past year. Anaesthetic workforce gaps and inflexible contracts, for example, are being taken seriously and it is now our role to keep hammering home the message to secure concrete commitments. Also, while it is disappointing that the Government is waving away the importance of pension rules as an issue for the welfare and morale of our members, this is not something we are going to give up on. Our campaign work has not finished – in fact, it has barely begun!

In the new year we will be launching a report on the state of the nation regarding Anaesthesia in the UK, bringing together all our research work so far. The report will issue a stark warning that unless there is a sustainable investment in the anaesthetic workforce, any plans politicians have to solve the NHS backlogs are in severe jeopardy. Furthermore, unless action is taken now to recruit more anaesthetists in training and to retain existing staff, things are going to get worse, not better.

Our profession is vital to the NHS’s recovery, and we will go on presenting our case to politicians and policy makers loud and clear.

Dr Fiona Donald

RCoA President