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Addressing recruitment and retention in paediatrics: a pipeline to a brighter future
  1. Peter Mallett1,
  2. Andrew Thompson1,
  3. Thomas Bourke1,2
  1. 1 Paediatics, Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, Belfast, N.Ireland
  2. 2 Centre for Medical Education, Queens University Belfast, Belfast, N.Ireland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Peter Mallett, Paediatrics, Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, Belfast BT12 6BA, N.Ireland; Peter.Mallett{at}


Background In the UK, the number of junior doctors completing foundation programme, and the number of trainees applying to paediatrics has been in decline in recent years. The NHS is at ‘breaking point’, exacerbated by workforce shortages, chronic underfunding, increasing service demand and poor job satisfaction within healthcare workers. Issues in recruitment and retention of paediatricians ‘threaten the safety of our children’s health’, according to the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

Aim To explore what strategies have been described in the literature to enhance recruitment and retention in paediatrics.

Methods A scoping review methodology was conducted, employing a qualitative approach to review the literature. The studies included were English-language studies. 16 full-text articles were reviewed and analysed.

Study findings There is a paucity of data in the literature that describes evidence-based approaches to enhancing retention and recruitment in paediatrics. The most important strategies employed to help are identified and grouped into six main themes. These include professional advocacy, workforce diversity, mentorship, improving working conditions, career flexibility and enhancing educational opportunities. The authors have created a ‘paediatric pipeline’ paradigm of ‘identify, engage, recruit, retain and champion’, which allow us to present these themes in a pragmatic way for paediatricians and policymakers.

Conclusions While some issues share similarities with other specialties in difficulty, much of the context and potential remedies within paediatrics are distinct. A strategic, multi-agency collaborative approach is required urgently to address the significant issues that face both paediatrics and the healthcare system.

  • health services research
  • information technology

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information. Not applicable.

This article is made freely available for personal use in accordance with BMJ’s website terms and conditions for the duration of the covid-19 pandemic or until otherwise determined by BMJ. You may use, download and print the article for any lawful, non-commercial purpose (including text and data mining) provided that all copyright notices and trade marks are retained.

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Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information. Not applicable.

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  • Contributors PM, AT and TB conceived, designed and developed the research project. All were members of the research team and were involved throughout the process. PM undertook the scoping review as part of his final dissertation for Masters in Clinical Education through Queens University of Belfast. AT and TB reviewed throughout. TB was academic supervisor for Masters project. PM, AT and TB were involved in draft, revision and final submission of this piece.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.