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Junior doctors report widespread ‘burn out,’ survey shows

Almost a third of trainees ‘often or always exhausted’

Jo Carlowe

Monday, 09 July 2018

Nearly a quarter of doctors in training and just over a fifth of trainers are “burnt out” because of their work.

These stark results are revealed in the GMC National Training Survey 2018 initial findings report, published today.

The report shows that almost a third of trainees said they are “often” or “always” exhausted at the thought of another shift. And well over a half of trainees, and just under a half of trainers, reported that they often or always feel worn out at the end of their working day.

Moreover, a fifth of doctors in training and trainers told the GMC they feel short of sleep when at work.

Two in five trainees and two-thirds of trainers rated the intensity of their work as very heavy or heavy; and nearly half of trainees reported that they work beyond their rostered hours on a daily or weekly basis.

Around a third of doctors in training and trainers said that training opportunities are lost to rota gaps.

“Together these findings present a worrying picture. Highly pressurised environments struggle to prioritise training in the face of an increasing population with more complex health needs, constrained budgets, and a medical profession at a crunch point - where the supply of new doctors has failed to keep pace with changes in demand,” the report states.

Responding to these findings, British Medical Association (BMA) junior doctors committee chair Dr Jeeves Wijesuriya said: "The BMA has warned of the physical and emotional toll that long hours, anti-social rotas and unsafe staffing levels can take on junior doctors and we hope that these survey results will prompt employers, politicians and policymakers to take action.

"Junior doctors miss training opportunities because there are not enough staff to fill rotas and because their trainers don’t have the time to provide the education and mentoring they need. It is more important than ever that high quality training with expert clinical supervision is not neglected.

"It is unacceptable to see such a large proportion of junior doctors reporting being burnt out, given the intense pressure trainees continue to be placed under in the NHS and it’s no surprise that an increasing number of doctors take a break in their training when poor employment practices and pressures throughout the healthcare system are having such a detrimental effect on their health and wellbeing.”

He added: "Since the 2016 contract was imposed on junior doctors, we’ve made some good progress in a number of areas aimed at improving the working lives of trainees, but these figures show more needs to be done to give junior doctors the respect and working lives they deserve.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We know how hard our junior doctors work and we are making sure they get the support they need to provide high-quality care for their patients - that’s why we recently announced brand new measures to help staff improve their work/life balance, as well as the biggest ever increase in training places for doctors, including five new medical schools.” 

Paul Wallace, director of Employment Relations and Reward for NHS Employers, said: “The GMC National Training Survey 2018 report provides some important reading for employers.

“Whilst it is encouraging that the majority of trainees remain satisfied with their overall educational experience, the reporting of high number of doctors in training and trainers who feel they are ‘burnt out’ is troubling.

“Employers have a key duty of care to their staff. The wellbeing of their doctors in training and trainees, raised as a key issue of concern in this report, is a potential source of concern.

“We will be encouraging employers to review their survey data to look at areas where of improvements can be made to support the experience of doctors in training.

“NHS Employers is working with NHS Improvement, the GMC and other stakeholders on a project to improve the effectiveness of exception reporting and the promotion of good practice.

“Later this year we will be working with the BMA on a review of the junior doctor terms and conditions of service, which will include themes of workforce, safety and wellbeing, and contract for training.

“We will be actively considering the findings of the GMC National Training Survey 2018 report as part of this review, and will look to see how we can continue to help and support employers.”

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