Increasing numbers of hospital admissions, fewer new consultant posts and a European law restricting the maximum hours junior doctors can work are adding stress to the NHS, according to the Federation of the Royal Colleges of Physicians (RCP) in the UK.
The group said its 2009 census indicated that the NHS is facing pressure, especially in emergency departments.
In 2009, emergency attendances in England rose by 5% to 20.5 million, as patients are not visiting GPs due to the limited out-of-hours cover offered by the family doctors.
The increase in hospital admissions is not being compensated with an increase in workforce –the census reveals that, since 2004, the workforce has risen by 12%, while the workload has increased by 19%.
According to the RCP, introduction of European working time regulations, which limit junior doctors to a maximum of 48 hours a week, has put further stress on the NHS.
RCP director of medical workforce Dr Andrew Goddard said that these factors are adding further stress to the NHS, which may reach breaking point within the next few years.