The NHS faces immense staffing challenges as the majority of medical staff after 2017 will be women, a new report has claimed.
According to Women in Medicine by the Royal College of Physicians, females currently account for 40% of all doctors, 42% of GPs, and 28% of consultants, while more than half of all new medical students each year are women. But they are forecast to make up the majority of GPs by 2013 and most of the medical workforce by around 2017.
The report said: "Across the NHS, 43% of all women doctors are under the age of 35, so many will not yet have started families. And the proportion of women of child-bearing age will rise sharply in the next decade as the larger cohort of women medical students graduates."
Jane Dacre, chair of the working group which produced the report, said: "More research is essential to find out how reorganising shift patterns and access to childcare facilities will affect the choices doctors make about how they work."
Currently, only about one in five female doctors who work in hospitals are on part-time contracts. At senior consultant level, nearly one-third (30%) of women work part-time.
Liam Donaldson, the government's chief medical officer, welcomed the report.
"We will work with the leadership of the medical profession to ensure that women have every opportunity to realise their aspiration when they choose a career in medicine," he said.