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From April 2018, the way that the study budget is distributed to junior doctors in England will be changing, to improve the flexibility in which money for training is spent, and to increase the transparency of where these funds go.
Why have these changes been made?
For years, junior doctors have been telling the BMA that there were serious problems with the way the current study budget system operated. There currently exists huge inequity, where in a given year some specialty trainees have to pay thousands of pounds out of their own pockets for costs associated with their training just to progress to the next stage, while many others find themselves with money left over. This is a widening access issue for certain specialties, with some junior doctors struggling to make ends meet or running up huge debts while paying for necessary courses.
Study budgets differed across the country under the old system. There was a lack of transparency regarding what happened to any money that went unspent, with evidence that some funding meant for medical education and training was being spent to plug gaps elsewhere in Trust budgets. Funds couldn’t be rolled between years, and there was evidence that study budgets were being top-sliced to pay for training which could sometimes be of questionable benefit or quality.
When the “Enhancing Junior Doctors’ Working Lives group” – a joint committee between the BMA, Health Education England and NHS Employers, formed during the 2016 contract dispute – began looking at ways to improve the lives of junior doctors outside of the contract itself, study budgets were a key issue on the list of where to start. With input from the BMA and other trainee groups, Health Education England developed this new system.
How will it work?
Rather than giving each trainee a time-limited and finite personal pot of money to spend, Health Education England will pool the funds regionally. In exchange, they have committed to covering all costs for training that are relevant to a junior doctors’ curriculum – beyond just that which is mandatory.
Additionally, if a junior doctor feels that an opportunity for a course or similar would benefit them as a professional, or the NHS more generally, they can also seek funding under these new arrangements.
Health Education England have also agreed with Trusts that if they require a junior doctor to have undertaken a certain course (eg Advanced Life Support), that they must pay for this. Your study budget is not to be used for courses like this and the trust must pay for these out of its own budget.
In addition, Health Education England have committed to greater scrutiny than is currently possible; they will publish information on where this money is spent, and on what. The intention is that this will result in a more transparent system, with all funds guaranteed to be used for the education and training of junior doctors.
It should be noted that these changes will only apply to the study budgets of those trainees covered by the Education and Training Tariff; junior doctors working in public health or GP trainees in GP placements will not be affected.
What do I need to do to access my study budget?
Trainees will continue to apply for their study budgets in a similar way as the present system, through their educational supervisors. If you are on the 2016 junior doctors’ contract, you should be agreeing a “personalised” version of the generic work schedule for your post with your education supervisor; this is a good time to discuss your personal goals for the job ahead, including any courses or learning opportunities that would benefit you. Even if you are not on the new contract, this initial meeting with your educational supervisor is an ideal time to highlight and discuss courses, conferences or other opportunities that you wish to apply for study budget to cover.
Study leave will be granted in a similar fashion, and a trainee will continue to be reimbursed through their pay packet. HEE have confirmed that there will be an appeals process, and that if there is an underspend of the education and training tariff, this will be used for educational resources for junior doctors.
As with any new system, there is likely to be some need for clarification and input for employers and regions to ensure that implementation is happening as intended. If you spot any problems where you are working, or you believe these changes have affected your training opportunities, please get in contact as soon as possible – you can email us at [email protected]
The Junior Doctors’ Committee (JDC) is a leading voice of trainees to Health Education England. We have pushed for necessary changes to the study budget system, and will continue to scrutinise these developments to ensure that the new system will achieve the intended aim for all those involved: that more money is invested into doctors’ training, and that the training for doctors in England remains world-leading. Sarah Hallett is JDC Deputy Chair and chair for Education and Training
Learn more about the tariff system for funding medical education and training
Can I clarify that I’ve understood this correctly, none of my colleagues seem to be aware of the changes. My study budget is also still listed as £400 for my February to August placement.
If my educational supervisor and I were to mutually agree that a course would be beneficial would it’s cost be automatically covered. Also are exam fees included, certain departments I’ve worked in previously have said exam fees cannot be paid for from a study budget.
- there should no longer be a personal "pot" or cap on your study budget
- if you and your ES agree that a course would be beneficial and it is relevant to your curriculum, it will be automatically covered. If it is not relevant to the curriculum but would still be beneficial, it will need approval by HoS / TPD.
- Exam fees are not covered, nor are Royal College fees - they would stretch the pot too far, but appreciate the high cost of exam fees is a massive issue for junior doctors. The Royal Colleges have all signed up to a statement of transparency around what they do with this money; we are chasing them to find out where they are publishing this.
Hope that answers these questions
What about Scotland?
Thanks for the reply,
All sounds great really
Is this applicable to all trainees all regions in England? (apart from the exclusions clearly outlined). Old contract and new contract? All specialty grades or just foundation trainees? This is the first I am hearing about this, our specialty haven’t mentioned this, and it is not something that can be implemented overnight considering the ramifications in administrating this. This is clearly a step forward and welcomed but the process has to be ironed out behind the scenes or problems will arise.
Does this apply to Foundation 2 trainees? We’ve been recently advised that we have no study budget and that the Yorkshire Deanery have consolidated all budgets to offer regional training days to all trainees in order to maximise cost efficiency and standardise educational opportunities.
Hello Anonymous #2: the answer to your questions is: yes all regions; yes all old and new contract; all grades and foundation; completely agree issues need to be ironed out. Teething problems are likely, it's such a big change. Need to ensure implemented in a way that benefits junior doctors, as intended.
Anonymous #3: we will follow up on these different rules being applied to Foundation Doctors.
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It states that LTFT trainees are excluded. If this is true, why and how is that fair?
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Sarah this was a proposal adopted by a few HEE regions, it in no way applies to all regions as you may find if you look around the country.
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