Published: 06:00, 17 January 2020
| Updated: 07:52, 17 January 2020
More than 50% of senior doctor jobs in Kent are unfilled, according to the Royal College of Physicians (RCP).
The situation means patients are suffering, with more and more are turning to the county's struggling A&Es for treatment.
KMTV examine why so many senior doctor jobs in Kent are unfilled
Using data it has compiled, the RCP says the situation is the same across Surrey and Sussex.
The RCP has now written to local MPs to highlight the shortage of consultants and higher speciality trainees (HSTs) in their area and call for them to put pressure on the government to urgently address the NHS workforce crisis.
From January 2018 to September 2019, 157 physician consultant posts in Kent, Surrey, and Sussex were advertised but less than half (75) of recruitment processes were successful.
Hospitals also experienced rota gaps, which have a huge impact on staff morale.
According to the RCP, 80% of consultants and 74% of HSTs reported rota gaps and vacancies had negatively affected their work-life balance.
It claims the need for staff to cover gaps in rotas has meant the almost half of HSTs reported missing a training opportunity in the last year due to covering a gap, and almost 60% of consultants reported receiving no compensation for covering gaps or vacancies.
The shortfall comes amid another looming problem as more and more consultants approach retirement age.
The RCP claims 40% of those currently working in the region are set to retire in the next decade.
One practical solution proposed by the RCP to develop a home-grown workforce is to double the number of medical school places to 15,000 a year.
Professor Donal O'Donoghue, RCP registrar said: “This data further highlights the immense pressures the medical profession faces across the NHS.
“Not only are patients and carers having to wait longer for care, but the wellbeing of doctors up and down the country is suffering due to the immense pressures that come from working in a service that is severely short-staffed.
“In order to increase the number of doctors for the future, we’re calling on the government to double the number of medical students.
“Only then can we move closer to providing a health service that is fair and timely for everyone, wherever and whenever they need it.”
More by this authorChris Britcher