According to a report by the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Britain has fewer doctors per head than almost every other European country with only Poland, Romania, Ireland and Slovenia being worse.
Senior doctors have described the shortages in Britain as life threatening and as leaving the NHS under ‘incredible pressure’.
The report identified that the UK has just 2.8% practising doctors per 1,000 population. This is well below the European average of 3.4. With Greece having twice as many doctors per head in comparison to the UK.
The concerning factor is that this news arrives following attempts to boost GP recruitment in the UK over the past few years.
Dr Cliff Mann, President of the College of Emergency Medicine, which represents A&E doctors, said: “We have been warning for some years that we have got fewer doctors than in most parts of the developed world.”
“When you have shortages of doctors in some areas it means longer waits. In A&E that’s not really an option, so it means doctors work harder and harder, it means there is a greater chance of mistakes, and ultimately it means risks to lives.”
Further findings in the report suggest that the number of doctors in the UK has increased more rapidly than in any other EU country since 2000, rising by over 50 per cent between 2000 and 2012.
As a result, the number of practising doctors per 1000 population rose from 2 to 2.8, the report says. “This nonetheless remains below the EU average of 3.4 doctors per 1000 population,” the report states.
The report says most of the increase in the number of doctors in the UK in the early 2000s came from doctors who came to this country from abroad.
“While most of the increase in the number of doctors in the United Kingdom in the early 2000s came from the entry of foreign-trained doctors, the situation changed just before the economic crisis with most of the increase now driven by a strong rise in the number of graduates from domestic medical education programmes,” the report states.
A Department of Health spokesperson said: “This year the NHS was ranked the best healthcare system in the world. There are now 8,300 more hospital doctors and 1,000 more GPs working in England than there were four years ago.”