Back in January, one of those trust-wide emails went round. You know the type – the ones you only take a cursory glance at, then ignore. However, this one was entitled ‘Champion of Flexible Working – Barts Health’ and my attention was immediately caught.
A colleague subsequently said to me: ‘I saw that – and immediately thought of you.’ I was never a part-time trainee but I have been a consultant since 2011 working part-time – three days a week (as I have three children (two with ASD) and a husband I have lost to his law firm).
I had to fight to be part-time and I face new challenges to my working pattern regularly. Frequently, I have thought it would be just so much easier all round if I just gave up. And yet I haven’t and I love my job. But this journey has made me passionate about supporting doctors who wish to work less than full time (LTFT).
The working ethos amongst consultants in the NHS continues to be all about working long hours to provide continuity of patient care in the face of the turbulence of changes in the junior doctors’ rotas. I believe strongly that this does not preclude part-time working.
Effective handover and good working relationships with colleagues are key. So I duly applied for the position and was interviewed in early February. Against stiff competition (I think there was one other applicant…), I was offered the post. Next question – what am I actually supposed to be doing in this role?
Interestingly, no-one could tell me. ‘Supporting LTFT junior doctors’ could encompass a huge range of things. Was I supposed to be sorting the nitty-gritty of individual trainees’ work schedules? In a trust the size of Barts Health with over a thousand trainees that really wasn’t going to be practical, was it?
A mentoring role then? Certainly my position as a part-time consultant in the Trust ideally places me to understand the challenges faced by LTFT medics. So it all seemed a little overwhelming. However, we are now in August and I’m beginning to feel my way in this new post largely thanks to support from the Barts Health Education Academy and by linking up with our guardian of safe working, Chris Kirwan, and Neil McCarten, our project lead in HR for junior doctors’ contracts.
We’re interested in establishing and streamlining the process by which trainees become LTFT and collecting monthly data on how many LTFT trainees we have and whether these positions are job-shares or a LTFT in a full-time post and how departments are covering these rota gaps.
I’m aiming to attend a junior doctors’ forum on each site annually and to establish an informal mentoring network of consultants across the trust who either are LTFT themselves or supportive of encouraging LTFT work.
However, my biggest win in the role to date has to be in supporting two LTFT trainees in successfully obtaining a job share consultant post in my own department. This post matters: ‘Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.’ (Barack Obama)
Rifca Le Dieu is a clinical senior lecturer and honorary consultant in haemato-oncology at Barts Health NHS Trust
Read the good practice guidance for flexible training champions, developed by NHS Employers in consultation with the BMA.
Thanks I truly believe I would not have left clinical medicine if there were ltft opportunities . I also know that it is a fact that everyone benefits from part time employees . I am sure if an audit was done, it would prove that it is actually more productive efficient and effective to have two part timers doing a full time post which would,probably cause burnout in one ......
Working ltft - the best advice I was ever given in my career.