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Junior doctors’ potential too often wasted, report shows

Junior doctors say their talent and potential not fully used in NHS

Louise Prime

Friday, 27 January 2012

Junior doctors are “an untapped NHS resource”, a report has shown. It found that doctors in training want to contribute to improving the NHS, and have the abilities to do so, but the majority of those questioned in southern England feel unheard and undervalued. This is a wasted opportunity for improvement in the NHS, say the study’s authors in BMJ Quality and Safety.

Researchers led from St James University Hospital in Leeds emailed 3766 doctors in training, from foundation year 1 to preconsultant level, in the NHS South Central region, asking them to complete an online survey. Just under 40% (1479) responded to the questionnaire, which asked for their views on their role and their future, as well as about other factors in their working life.

The study authors argue that because doctors in training move frequently between specialties and organisations within the NHS, they are in a good position to readily identify good and bad practice. But this opportunity to improve quality is being missed, they found. Although 91% of respondents said that they had ideas for ways in which their own workplace could be improved, only 10.7% had ever had implemented an idea for change. Nearly 44% said that they were unsure how to get an idea implemented, or had tried to do so and failed.

A huge majority (83%) of respondents said they felt either “not valued at all” or only “sometimes valued” by managers; almost as many felt undervalued by their chief executive, their employing organisation, or by the NHS as a whole (78%, 77% and 79% respectively). In contrast, most felt “highly valued” or “valued” by non-consultant colleagues (75.5%) and consultants (62.8%).

The researchers commented that their findings show “that junior doctors feel unable to realise their full potential as change agents”.

They said: “We have demonstrated that the junior doctor medical workforce has both the desire and the ability to start contributing to improvement in the NHS, but feels that the environment in which they work is not sufficiently receptive to their skills.

“If the government is to achieve the aim of improving productivity and quality in the NHS on a restricted budget then all employees need to feel valued and engaged to optimise organisational performance.”

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