Workforce and Training

02.12.16

Risk of doctor training being ‘eroded’ by high workloads

Doctors in training are increasingly complaining of excessive workloads and workplace exhaustion, leading to warnings from the General Medical Council (GMC) that medical training is being “eroded”.

The GMC annual survey of medical education and training found that 43% of doctors in training described their workload as ‘heavy’ or ‘very heavy’, a 2.3% increase compared to 2012.

Furthermore, 44.5% said they were unsatisfied with their workload, although this represented a 1.5% drop from the rate in 2014. Nearly a quarter of doctors in training also complained of feeling sleep deprived on a daily or weekly basis, a 3.4% decrease from 2012.

Emergency medicine, acute internal and general internal medicine, respiratory medicine, and gastroenterology were among the specialties with the highest workloads.

Charlie Massey, chief executive of the GMC, said: “We know the very real pressures our healthcare services are under and appreciate the challenges organisations involved with the training of doctors are facing, but it is vital training is not eroded.

“Those responsible and accountable for the delivery of medical education locally must take appropriate steps to ensure the training of doctors remains protected. Medical training is so often a bellwether for the quality and safety of patient care and patients are directly at risk if support and supervision of doctors in training is inadequate.”

He has now written to NHS trusts reminding them of their obligations to ensure training of doctors is protected.

The report is the latest in a series of others raising concerns about the pressures on NHS doctors. It follows research from the Royal College of Physicians showing that four-fifths of junior doctors experience excessive stress, and warnings from the Nuffield Trust that doctors’ relationships with their managers are being undermined by financial pressures.

But despite concerns about workloads, Massey added, the survey showed “a tremendous amount of high-quality training” was being delivered. Overall, 98.7% of trainee doctors said they were satisfied with their training post.

The GMC also conducted a survey of 23,000 medical trainers and found that 92.8% enjoyed their job. However, one in three said they didn’t have enough time to deliver training.

Furthermore, one in 10 raised complaints including a lack of support from their trust or board, and an unclear definition of the educational responsibilities defined of them.

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