medical schools council


Investment in clinical academia needed to deliver medical expansion


The clinical academic workforce is ageing and without intervention to train and retain a new generation of medical academics, the UK risks its ability to contribute to scientific research, improve patient care and educate an increasing number of medical students as set out in the government’s Long Term Workforce Plan. New data published by the Medical Schools Council continue to show concerning trends within the clinical academic workforce.

Clinical academics (CAs) are doctors who undertake teaching and research alongside treating patients in the NHS. A large proportion of clinical skills education is undertaken by these staff who are often responsible for course design, leadership and delivery as well as contributing to NHS services. However, 36% of clinical academics are now aged over 55, and this is greater at Professor grade with 65% of Professors aged over 55. This has more than doubled since 2004 (31%). As these academics near retirement, if the pipeline of CAs is not maintained, delivering the ambitions of the Long Term Workforce Plan becomes far more challenging. The impact is not limited to education, as a decline in the CA workforce will have a profound impact on clinical research which provides the evidence base for improved clinical practice and gives patients access to cutting edge treatments. The global importance of medical research and the UK’s role in it has been rightly recognised since the pandemic but without intervention to support new and early career researchers, the government’s vision for the future of UK clinical research is at risk.

The data also highlight significant issues in relation to gender and ethnic diversity within the workforce. Ethnic minority academics remain underrepresented especially among Black/ Black British clinical academics (<1% of the total FTE). When comparing gender, male CAs constitute two thirds of the workforce and are more likely to hold senior positions, comprising 76% and 62% of clinical academics at the Professor and Reader/Senior Lecturer grades, respectively. This is a slight reduction in comparison to 2004, when 89% and 77% of Professor and Reader/Senior Lecturer posts were held by men.

To support the growth of clinical academia it is important that academics have access to local Clinical Excellence Awards and are appropriately recognised through the National Clinical Impact Award scheme which has replaced the previous national scheme. It is concerning that 59% of Professors held awards in 2023 compared to 83% in 2014. Greater promotion and understanding of the clinical academic career pathway are also needed. In response to this, the Clinical Academic Training and Careers Hub (CATCH) was launched in October 2021 to promote the role of clinical academics and support health professionals beginning their clinical academic journey.

Professor Patrick Maxwell, Chair of the Medical Schools Council said:

“With the publication of the Long Term Workforce Plan, evidence-based workforce decisions have never been more important. The data collected in this annual survey help us identify the key issues, and what should follow are strategic interventions and funding from our colleagues in the health and higher education sectors, and policy makers in government. Many clinical academics are nearing retirement at a time when we need more academics to support the education of an expanding student population. The decline in clinical academia is also a serious barrier to the growth of the UK’s research capabilities. While the clinical academic workforce is small, the impact of clinical academic research is vast and continues to drive improvements in healthcare, both at home and abroad. Collectively, we must do more to make clinical academia an attractive and rewarding career to prevent these bottlenecks from emerging.

“The data reveal we still have a long way to go in ensuring equal representation within clinical academia. While it is encouraging to see that the number of female clinical academics has increased, it is important to understand the causes underlying the significant gender and ethnic disparities, and that we work together as a sector to solve this issue. Representation of the whole of society is essential in driving innovative research and education, and ensuring that clinical academic careers are accessible to clinicians from all backgrounds should be a priority.”

Read the full data: Medical Clinical Academic Survey


Notes to editors:

  1. The Medical Schools Council is the representative body for UK medical schools. The council is made of the heads of UK medical schools and meets in order to shape the future of medical education and research in the UK. For information about the work of the Medical Schools Council, please see
  2. The Medical Clinical Academic Survey is a way for institutions such as universities, hospitals and research funders to understand the current pool of clinical academics. The first survey was undertaken in 2000 and the Medical Schools Council assumed responsibility for the survey in 2003, after which it has been undertaken annually. Since 2018, the data has taken the form of an interactive tool which includes both the latest and all historical data.
  3. The Clinical Academic Training and Careers Hub was launched in October 2021 to promote the role of clinical academics and support health professionals beginning their clinical academic journey. For more information, visit
  4. For more information about this press release, please contact
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