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It didn’t come as a surprise to see the results of the latest GMC national training survey, highlighting the fact that fewer and fewer doctors are going straight into training posts from FY2 – in fact, less than half of them are now doing so. In recent years, medical training has seemed more like a thankless and inexorable conveyor belt with a neverending To-Do checklist of things to be done, steps to be taken, and hoops to be jumped through before you can reach the next stage, and the next, and the next. There seems to be no room for uncertainty, no time to pause, no breathing space to take stock of your situation; the BMA’s recent survey on trends in career choice highlights the fact that many junior doctors are taking time out of training to safeguard their own health and wellbeing, or because they are not ready at an early stage to be pushed into making final decisions about their career path.
But we’re feeling optimistic. Because junior doctors have started the push back. They are voting with their feet. They are taking time out, and (as per BMA survey results) the vast majority are finding these breaks are beneficial. Whether it’s because they’ve had a rest, stepped off the treadmill for a while, discovered a part of the world they wouldn’t otherwise have done, pursued an alternative project or simply had a little bit of time to think about what they want to do. And this gives us the chance to reconfirm that we are professionals, with desirable skills and qualities, with the confidence to reject suboptimal living and training conditions, and the autonomy to have a say in where we want our working lives to go. Junior doctors are increasingly taking the opportunity to build more bespoke careers, and this is a fantastic step.
In the past few months, there have been significant steps towards easing career flexibility for junior doctors. The GMC’s statement confirming that they have no opposition to part-time junior doctors locuming, and now the Gold Guide review stating for the first time that less-than-fulltime doctors may do part time work alongside their training will make it easier for junior doctors who work less-than-fulltime to feel fully part of their team, balance their financial commitments or keep up their skills. Additionally, there is an important body of work underway, the HEE’s Supported Return to Training programme; the BMA’s education and training team has fed into this project, highlighting the need for high-quality resources to be available to junior doctors who have had a career break, helping them make a safe and supported return to work.
Flexibility in training and working benefits both the junior doctor and the employer. Less than fulltime working, career breaks, out-of-programme experience or training… they allow people who would not otherwise be able to work or train as doctors to continue doing so, and empower us to seek out other projects and interests, taking our current valuable skills with us, and bringing back new experience and training to benefit the NHS. And it’s certainly not the easy option, but it can be an extremely rewarding one. We know it’s difficult out there, but we at the BMA will continue doing whatever we can to empower junior doctors to work flexibly, be treated fairly, and navigate the increasingly unconventional paths they are taking through their careers.
Please share your stories with us!
Maddy Fogarty-Hover and Ruth-Anna Macqueen are co-chairs of the BMA LTFT forum. Contact the LTFT forum chairs: [email protected]
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