Aim To find out what community child health services are delivered in our region, by whom, and what gaps in medical workforce can be predicted.
Methods A single interviewer went to every trust in our region and carried out a structured interview. We used the BACCH prospectus as a framework. The questions covered current services, future services, current medical workforce gaps, and future vacancies. They were also asked how unfilled posts had affected their services.
Results There are 16 units which include community paediatrics in our region. There have been 6 consultant vacancies in 2013 in community child health. There are another 8.5 posts to become vacant next year. We have divided them between the east, west and south areas of our region (Image).
There are also vacancies in career grade posts. There are 14 predicted vacancies in the next 10 years in our region.
This has affected the units in several different ways. Most concerning are the unfilled statutory posts. There are 6 posts unfilled in 2013 and another 9 to become vacant in 2014.
We found a high level of variability between across the region, both with the services provided (e.g. forensic sexual abuse examination) and also the roles expected of a paediatrician (e.g. acute on calls).
However we are not training enough paediatricians in community child health. There is currently only 1 higher specialist training post in community child health in the whole of our region.
Conclusion There is an urgent need for more paediatricians trained in community child health in our region. Trusts are unable to meet their statutory obligations. This is inadequately met by current training schemes. The proposed grid posts should meet the long term workforce requirements, but are too late to meet the short term crisis.