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Junior doctors report a poor work life balance

Doctors’ training likened to an ‘endurance test’

Jo Carlowe

Thursday, 02 May 2013

Half of junior doctors report staffing shortages in their workplace and many talk of high levels of stress and a poor work life balance.

This is the finding from the seventh report of the British Medical Association’s cohort study, which traces the career progression of 430 medical graduates who qualified in 2006.

The report, published today, paints a bleak picture of the working lives of doctors in training.

Included in the report were the findings that half of the doctors in the study think there are staff shortages at work, one in four junior doctors say they do not have enough time to deliver the quality of care that patients deserve and over one in four doctors feel their stress levels have become worse or much worse in the past year.

In addition, one in four specialty trainees (doctors in the later stages of training) would describe their stress levels as “high” or “very high”.

Recently qualified GPs were more likely to report higher levels of stress, nine out of ten agreed that doctors’ dissatisfaction with work-life balance is a factor why people leave medicine or choose to work overseas and only one in four think positive change is happening in the work place.

The report also reveals disillusionment with changes to the NHS - with six in ten saying these have had a negative effect on morale.

Commenting on the report, Dr Ben Molyneux, Chair of the BMA’s Junior Doctor Committee said: “Training to be a consultant or GP should not be some sort of trial of endurance like appearing on ‘I’m a Celebrity…’. We owe it to our patients to change the way doctors are trained.

“It is shocking that one in four junior doctors feel they do not have enough time to offer the highest quality of care to patients. Sadly, it is not surprising when you discover that so many doctors in training are working in unacceptable, stressful environments where understaffing is commonplace.”

The BMA is currently in talks with NHS Employers about changes to junior doctors’ contracts and many of the issues raised in this report will be used as part of these discussions.

Dr Molyneux added: “We will push for junior doctors to have more control of their working patterns so that they can better plan their lives and the care of their patients.”

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