A new report from the College of Emergency Medicine warns of a looming staffing crisis in NHS Accident and Emergency departments, prompting a prominent medical recruiter to urge NHS trusts to work closely with their specialist supply chains in order to avert disaster.

John Zafar, who is chief executive of the specialist medical recruitment firm Asclepius, says that a number of factors coming into play simultaneously will see to it that the “gap between supply and demand is not going to go away any time soon.”

Citing visa restrictions on non-EU doctors, the surge in doctors opting out of working nights and weekends, the introduction of the European Working Time Directive and rising A&E admission rates, Mr Zafar says that the only way to keep the system operational is for NHS hirers to collaborate closely with suppliers. He continued: “It is all about pre-planning as much as possible. We are often providing temp doctors to trusts several weeks in advance of their requirements because we are able to work closely with the trusts in their workforce planning.”

The director of healthcare at Hays, Simon Hudson, pointed out that A&E is one of five major NHS areas experiencing shortages of doctors presently, along with an acute shortage of nurses with experience in A&E, high dependency units, critical care and theatre.

The college recommends a minimum of ten full-time consultants per emergency ward, and 16 for larger wards; currently the average is just seven.

An implication of the staffing shortfall is that nurses and healthcare specialists employed by Umbrella Companies look set to find themselves in especially high demand if they have the requisite skills and experience.

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