Medical schools concerned over fall in clinical academic staff


The Medical Schools Council raises concerns over the falling number of clinical academic staff, revealed today in the Survey of medical clinical academic staffing levels 2017. 

Medical clinical academics combine clinical practice, teaching and research. This puts them at the forefront of medicine in the UK, using each aspect of their work to enrich the others. In the context of a health service under severe pressures from an ageing population with increasingly complex co-morbidities, maintaining a strong balance and overall number of clinical academics is essential. The Medical Schools Council has been surveying their numbers since 2000. 

The new survey shows that the total number of medical clinical academics has seen a 2.1% decline since 2015 and a 4.2% decline since 2010. In a health service of increasing demands, any stagnancy can have real consequences. The survey also shows that the reduction occurs disproportionately at the Senior Lecturer (also known as Reader) level, a 32.9% fall since 2000. This is part of an overall decline in medical clinical academic numbers of 14.3% over the same period. 

As part of the survey, medical schools have highlighted problems in recruiting to posts at the Senior Lecturer level. There is concern as to whether there are sufficient numbers at Researcher grade to fill the gap in the future. 

The survey also covers areas such as the funding, geographical spread, gender and ethnicity of the clinical academic team. When broken down by specialties, the survey data revealed drops in clinical academic numbers in Psychiatry and Pathology, and increases in Medical Education and Emergency Medicine. 

The survey shows a steady increase of clinical academics in General Practice, although it highlights that numbers remain very small in comparison to the wider population of GPs. There is a need for rapid expansion if this important team is to help primary care meet the growing needs of the population. 

Professor Jenny Higham, Chair of the Medical Schools Council, says: 

‘Medical clinical academics are key to a health service which properly serves the nation. Where medical schools have reported difficulties in recruiting to Senior Lecturer grade we must together investigate and remove any barriers for potential candidates. 

‘This will involve not just medical schools but the whole community of funders, employers and other bodies. We commend the Medical Research Council for leading in the development of a survey to better understand staffing at the Researcher level, and the wider group of research funders for their collaboration on creating new guidance for institutions and trainees who receive funding for clinical academic training. 

‘Initiatives like these, together with the survey released today, are invaluable in ensuring the future pipeline of medical clinical academics. This is paramount to the UK’s ability to care for the patients of today and the future.’ 

The survey can be accessed online here: 

Survey of medical clinical academic staffing levels 2017


Notes to editors: 

  1. The Medical Schools Council represents the interests and ambitions of UK medical schools as they relate to the generation of national health, wealth and knowledge through biomedical research and the profession of medicine. For further information about the work of the Medical Schools Council please see  
  2. This is the fifteenth data update to be published by the Medical Schools Council since 2000. Thirty-four medical schools returned data on clinical academic grade, specialty, percentage full-time, Clinical Excellence Award, source of funding, age, gender, and ethnicity for each individual in post on 31 July 2016.
  3. For more information on this press release please contact Edward Knight, Senior Communications Officer, on 020 7419 5427, or
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