Wellbeing of doctors must be prioritised, says BMA in response to GMC’s National Training Survey

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: UK
Published: Tuesday 27 July 2021

Responding to the findings of the GMC’s National Training Survey 20211, in which a third of trainees said they felt burnt out to a high or very high degree because of their work, Dr Sarah Hallett, BMA junior doctors committee chair, said:

“Any junior doctor reading these findings will sadly not be surprised about the high levels of burnout among the profession, though it still makes for sobering reading.

“Junior doctors have helped keep the NHS on its feet throughout the pandemic, working gruelling hours in often unfamiliar settings, and have seen death and serious illness on a scale that even the most experienced doctors had never seen before.

“During this time, while the NHS rallied to meet the urgent task at hand, training often regrettably had to take a back seat. So while it is good to see a high proportion of trainees rating the quality of their training and clinical supervision highly – a testament to our senior colleagues – and on course to meet their curriculum outcomes, it is very worrying that one in 10 junior doctors were concerned about progressing through their training. Meanwhile, the toll taken on the training of those in ‘craft’ specialties – in which trainees require practical experience of specific procedures, and which includes surgeons, ophthalmologists and cardiologists – is stark, with 43% not on course to undertake the expected number of procedures. This is not sustainable.

“We are the consultants, GPs and specialists of the future, and the highly-skilled clinicians that the NHS will rely on for decades to come. As the health service moves to the next phase of managing the pandemic and working through the huge backlog of care, the wellbeing and training needs of junior doctors must be prioritised.

“More broadly, as evidenced in previous surveys, while the pandemic may have exacerbated burnout among the medical profession, it did not create it in the first place. Only with a well-resourced NHS that treats its workforce with dignity, and through wider policies that improve rather than harm the health of the population, can we avoid staff stretching themselves so thinly that it leaves them at breaking point.”

Dr Helen Fidler, BMA consultants committee deputy chair, said:

“Despite the huge pressures posed by the pandemic, it speaks volumes to the commitment and professionalism of consultants that trainees continued to rate their training and clinical supervision highly during this time.

“What is worrying however – if not at all surprising – is the record level of burnout among trainers. The scenes they’ve witnessed in hospitals caring for the sickest of patients, often working beyond their contracted hours, while trying to also supervise, teach and mentor junior staff has had a severe impact on their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

“It’s crucial that the expertise and dedication of these committed doctors is recognised – something that has been roundly ignored by Government in last week’s paltry pay announcement, which will only push morale deeper into the ground and risk more talented clinicians reducing their hours or even leaving the health service all together at a time when the NHS needs them most.”

Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chair, said:

“It’s positive to see that trainees continue to rate their training and supervision highly, but what is incredibly concerning is the large increase in GP trainers suffering from burnout, with the same group most likely to say their work was emotionally exhausting and others frustrated that there are simply not enough hours in the day to give training the attention it deserves.

“While this is testament to the dedication and importance GP trainers place in ensuring the next generation of GPs get the supervision and mentoring they need, it also underlines the intense and often unsustainable pressure being placed on individual doctors as they try to balance caring for patients, assisting colleagues and looking after their own wellbeing – often while managing the day-to-day demands of running a practice too.

“A renewed effort to protect staff’s wellbeing, while providing practices with the resources they need to meet the growing list of demands they face, will be key as we face the next daunting stage of the pandemic and recovery.”

Ends

Notes to editors

The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.

  1. Report available on the GMC's website.