There has been much debate about the motivations of current doctors in training and suggestions that they are making different choices to their predecessors. This includes a trend to take a break from their clinical training, train less than full time (LTFT) and their attitudes towards an NHS career.
For breaks in training especially, not enough is known about the motivations of doctors who interrupt their training, where they go, what they choose to do or how they perceive their careers to be affected.
In Autumn 2017, the BMA carried out a major UK-wide survey of doctors in training to better understand these issues which have relevance to contemporary medical careers and workforce planning.
Full survey report
Download the survey report
The key survey findings
Key findings include:
- More than half of junior doctors report taking time out of training.
- Uncertainty over choice of career specialty and concerns about personal health and wellbeing are major drivers of breaks in training.
- Doctors expressed satisfaction at their decision to interrupt training, especially those who felt they needed to step off the 'treadmill' of working day to day in a stressful NHS and decide on their future medical career.
- Breaks in clinical training are most common among females, supporting findings from the BMA's recent Cohort Study.
- Male and female reasons for a break are different: males are more likely to take a deanery approved out of programme break (OOP), to work in a non-training post either in the UK or overseas, work as a locum or travel; females were more likely to take a break for maternity leave, whereas only tiny numbers of males had done so for paternity.
- Three-quarters of doctors who worked overseas on a break chose Australia or New Zealand as their destination.
- Less than full time (LTFT) training is mostly pursued by females and those caring for dependents but there is a smaller group without caring responsibilities for whom maintaining their LTFT status is important.
- Overall, LTFT trainees report being more satisfied with their training than FTE trainees. Concerningly however, the majority of LTFT trainees see their decision to work as such as being seen negatively by those responsible for their training.
- Enthusiasm for working in the NHS is subdued, though highest among females and LTFT doctors and lowest in males and emergency medicine trainees.
- Current doctors in training are making decisions about their future career shaped by a desire for autonomy over their work-life balance and independence.
- These decisions are sensitive to pressures on the healthcare system, with workload and staffing levels major factors in choice of specialty, and this survey suggests general practice is becoming especially unattractive.
- These findings have significance for flexibility of training and qualified NHS posts, medical workforce planning and future gender pay issues.
For more information on the career preferences of junior doctors, see the findings from the BMA Cohort Study.
Links to helpful guidance: