10% of the population yet 13.2% of the paediatricians: why the health of Scotland’s children is NOT being put at risk by staff shortages 


The RCPCH reported:

‘Unless urgent action is taken, a shortage of children’s doctors in Scotland is putting young people’s health at significant risk and could damage the health of future generations, claims the RCPCH’s latest workforce report. The report, published by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, reveals that the paediatric workforce in Scotland is on the brink of a recruitment crisis. The current workforce must expand and include the appointment of at least 82 more consultant paediatricians – an increase of a quarter (25%) – in order to deliver the required standards of care to children and young people.’


Needless to say, Scotland’s NoMedia loved and lived this evidence for their proxy war against the SNP using NHS Scotland. However, the RCPCH has, itself, published evidence to cast their opening melodramatic, tabloid, statement into serious doubt.


In the RCPCH Workforce census 2017 upon which this 2019 report seems to be based, which ‘outlines the UK’s current paediatric workforce supply, compares this to the demand for services and then make an estimate of how many more consultants would be required to meet demand’, we this revealing data:



Using this data, we see that Scotland has 13.2% of the paediatric staffing found in England yet has only has 10% of the population. Had we only the 10% you would expect, all things being equal, that would mean 253 staff and not 338. 25% less paediatric staff? Now, that would be ‘putting young people’s health at significant risk and could damage the health of future generations.’

Wait a minute, maybe there are far more children in Scotland to justify more staff?

Well no, in 2017, there were 679 106 live births in the UK and 52 861 in Scotland. The UK population is just over 12 times that of Scotland but has nearly 13 times the birth rate so, you might argue, it needs more not less paediatric staff.

Well then, maybe we’ll need more staff in the future? No again.  See this:


When you look back at some earlier RCPCH reports they seem relatively well disposed toward the Scottish Government.

First, from the RCPCH’s UK report in January 2018:

Policies that will improve childhood obesity rates, breastfeeding rates, women’s health during pregnancy, child poverty and child and adolescent mental health have all been welcomed in the new scorecard, which sees the Scottish Government performing far better than the Westminster Government when it comes to its focus on child health.’

We then see an impressive list of achievements, recognised in the report:

‘Key recommendations from State of Child Health that have been adopted include:

  • An announcement to expand the number of health visitors by an additional 500 by the end of 2018 through the full roll-out of the Family Nurse Partnership programme.
  • A commitment from Scottish Government to ensure specialist breastfeeding advice and support is delivered to women
  • A commitment from Scottish Government to review statutory sex and relationships education in all schools
  • A commitment from Scottish Government to create a system to ensure that child deaths are properly reviewed
  • A commitment to deliver a Child and Adolescent Health and Wellbeing Action Plan
  • A commitment from Scottish Government to tackle obesity by supporting families to lead active lives, encouraging more women and girls to take up sport and launching a consultation with the view to publishing a strategy later this year’

And there’s more praise from RCPCH UK for the SG:

‘Dr Steve Turner, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s Officer for Scotland, said: It’s heartening that the child health and wellbeing agenda is moving forward in Scotland. At the end of 2017 the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act was passed by the Scottish Parliament, providing a positive first step towards reducing child poverty. The Scottish Government has led the way nationally by setting a minimum unit price on alcohol, it has committed to deliver a child and adolescent health and well-being action plan in 2018, an obesity strategy and has committed to adopt a ‘child health in all policies’ approach. All of these developments indicate how serious Scottish Government is taking child health and they will help Scotland become a healthier country for children. “Considering only a year has passed since the launch of our State of Child Health report, it is encouraging that so many commitments to child health have been made. The key now is to make sure these commitments are delivered effectively.’


Is this 2019 report then a rogue report from a group within the RCPCH linked to Unionist elements in Scottish politics?


5 thoughts on “10% of the population yet 13.2% of the paediatricians: why the health of Scotland’s children is NOT being put at risk by staff shortages 

  1. Alasdair Macdonald March 6, 2019 / 12:49 pm

    Thank you for digging out the report and for revealing more data to enable us to get a fuller picture of what the situation is.

    Clearly, as one of the respondents on a related posting points out, the RCPCH produces well-researched papers and presents data in fairly objective ways.

    I was, for several decades, a member of the Educational Institute of Scotland, which is the main trade union for teachers in Scotland. Throughout its history the EIS has also had a professional and curriculum development purpose – for example it set up the Scottish Educational Research Association and it was also a leading driver in the development of schools’ football, to give two disparate examples. Indeed, it has contributed significantly over the decades to improving and sustaining the quality of education in Scotland. The EIS continues to fulfil this role, with distinction. But, it is also a trade union charged with improving the pay and conditions of its members and, in such a role it is prepared to play politics and to utilise research – such as self-selecting questionnaires based on leading questions! – to present ‘cataclysmic’ scenarios which can be averted only by improving the pay and conditions of its members! During my most ‘industrially active’ period during the 1970s and 80s, we deployed such tactics. However, we were faced for much of the time by Labour or Conservative Governments and so the media portrayed us as ‘using our children as bargaining chips’ and condemned us. However, the media is generally hostile to the Scottish Government and so it presents the EIS data uncritically.

    The Health unions and despite their ‘important’ titles such as The Royal College of Nursing they are trade unions as well as genuine professional bodies (like the EIS) and engage in similar politicking and ‘cataclysmic’ reporting to make the case for their members’ pay and conditions. Generally, the ‘professional’ health unions receive and have long received a degree of respectful awe from the media: for examples, nurses are often described as ‘angels’. However, the other health unions such as COHSE were usually treated by the media as ‘moral blackmailing scum’ (probably because they are not ‘middle class’!)

    I think that in this case, a leading officer bearer of RCPCH has been behaving primarily as a union negotiator, while wearing the motley of respectability as a ‘PROFESSOR’. I am pretty sure that when he is involved in bilateral groups about workforce planning he will adopt a constructive approach, but, outside of these he puts on a different ‘hat’.

    What made me suspicious about his comments was that almost immediately, Ms Monica Lennon, the Labour spokesperson on health came out with a prepared soundbite.

    The RCPCH is, of course, entitled to argue its case as a trade union, but, the media have a duty to set these comments in context, by identifying this as coming from a trade union in pursuit of its members’ interests and, to question the validity of the claims being made. I suspect that only part of the reason the journalists are unwilling to question is the opportunity to attack the SG (and public services generally) and that another part is that they feel overawed by the professorial ‘authority’ and the fear of their lack of detailed knowledge being exposed. Many professional people can be tempted to extend their professional authority to authority in other matters in which they have no more authority than Joe or Josephine Bloggs.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ludo Thierry March 6, 2019 / 1:22 pm

    Hi John et al. I suspect the RCPCH spokesperson would have been highly delighted to comment favourably on the good news item carried on the news.gov.scot site today regarding the considerable new investment in Mental Health Services for new and expectant mothers – For some reason the beeb reporter must have forgotten to ask for a comment – slipped the beeb’s mind or something? Link and snippets below:


    06/03/19 09:35

    Mental health care for new mums

    Funding to improve standards.

    More than £50 million is to be spent on improving access to mental health services for expectant and new mothers, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced.

    The new money will provide access to treatment for an additional 11,000 women who experience mental health problems during and after their pregnancy.

    Perinatal mental illness affects up to 20% of women, and covers a wide range of conditions. If left untreated, it can have long lasting effects on women and their families.

    New models of service delivery will be introduced, including specialist care for acute perinatal mental health problems and improved infant mental health services.

    A new needs assessment report, funded by the Scottish Government, has been published by the national Managed Clinical Network (MCN) for perinatal mental health. The report outlines recommendations to improve the provision of mental health care for expectant and new mothers and their families.

    Dr Roch Cantwell, Lead clinician for the Perinatal Mental Health National Managed Clinical Network, said:

    “The needs assessment and service recommendations report gives us a template to establish services which will ensure that women, their infants and families, receive expert care wherever they live in Scotland and that children can have the best start in life.”


    The Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Programme Board – chaired by Hugh Masters – will oversee and manage the £50 million investment.

    The Perinatal Mental Health Managed Clinical Network is a Scotland-wide network of specialist clinicians focused on improving perinatal mental health.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ludo Thierry March 6, 2019 / 5:34 pm

    Hi John and Co. – Earlier today I posted that I wondered whether the RCPCH had issued a press release on the very welcome planning and extra funding announced today by the SNP Scottish Govt. for £50 million to help address the issues around Perinatal Mental Health in Scotland. I also asked the rhetorical question of whether beeb Scotland had neglected to ask the RCPCH for their observations on this most welcome development.

    Well – grabbing a coffee just now I managed to – in all of 2 minutes flat:

    A) Locate a press release on the RCPCH site most fulsome in its praise of this action by the Scottish Govt – with useful additional info from Professor Steve
    Turner (RCPCH Scotland Officer) giving excellent context of how this investment in perinatal MH issues has much wider (indeed, generational) benefits.

    B) Locate a report on the beeb Scotland website giving a perfectly good, neutral, informative (if slightly dull?) report on this very major SNP Scottish Govt investment in perinatal MH issues. As I had previously (jokingly) suggested – the beeb reporters seemed to have neglected to contact RCPCH for comment (or even to ‘lift’ a comment from the RCPCH press release on their website!).

    Curious which ‘comments’ beeb Scotland choose to chase up and which ‘comments’ they don’t so choose, n’est ce pas?

    Links and snippets below:


    The Scottish Government has today announced that more than £50 million is to be spent on improving access to mental health services for expectant and new mothers. Officer for Scotland, Professor Steve Turner, responds.

    The new money will provide access to treatment for an additional 11,000 women who experience mental health problems during and after their pregnancy.

    Responding to the announcement, Professor Steve Turner, Officer for Scotland for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), said:

    We know that a mother’s mental health and wellbeing has an impact on all aspects of their children’s health and wellbeing. Becoming a parent can be a trigger to new mental health issues and may make pre-existing mental health problems more troublesome. Unidentified or unsupported mental health problems either before or after birth can harm the baby. For example, depression reduces maternal milk production and this reduces the likelihood of breastfeeding and breastfeeding is known to protect baby from many infections and conditions such as eczema. Maternal mental health issues can also prevent all important mother-child bonding.

    That’s why we are pleased to see today’s announcement by the Scottish Government and acknowledge it as a crucial support not only for expectant and new parents, but also for the health of Scotland’s next generation.



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