A perfect storm of poor conditions and pay

A survey of junior doctors shows morale, pay and working conditions are all suffering 

Location: England
Published: Saturday 4 February 2023
junior doctors' protest pay

As we continue campaigning for full pay restoration for junior doctors, they continue dealing with a 26.1% pay cut and unacceptable working conditions.

In our latest survey, conducted at the end of 2022, we asked junior doctors a wide range of questions about their wellbeing, workload and working conditions.

Nearly 3,000 junior doctors responded to share their experiences. Now the results are in, and the news isn’t good – for junior doctors, for patients, or for the NHS at large. 

Here are some of the most concerning findings.

Worsening morale and wellbeing

With inflation still at budget-busting levels, NHS waiting lists at record highs and staff shortages across the board, junior doctors’ morale has been systemically chipped away at. When we asked how they would describe their morale, 60% opted for low or very low. 

That’s the majority of our respondents coming into work each day suffering from low morale, in a job they have already dedicated many years of training to. Just as worryingly, nearly half (49%) described their physical and mental wellbeing as low or very low. 

During my first year as a junior doctor I just felt like I was getting up, going to work, coming back, having some food, going to bed, getting up, going to work, coming back, having some food, going to bed. And this was just my routine. It left me more irritable, more anxious. So, even before Covid, I felt burnt out
Ruqaya Idrees, doctor on a career break 

That such a large proportion of junior doctors feel their own health is being compromised by the job they do should ring deafening alarm bells for the Government.

And alarmingly, 51% described their desire to continue working in the NHS in the next 12 months as low or very low.  

When we dug deeper into the mental and physical health of junior doctors, two shockingly high statistics came to light.

Within the last 12 months, 78% have felt unwell as the result of work-related stress. 88% admitted they find their work emotionally exhausting sometimes or always.

What’s more, things are getting progressively worse – 55% told us their health and wellbeing is worse than a year ago. 

Too few doctors, too many patients, and no solution in sight

We already know that burnout is a major issue for junior doctors, and this survey also revealed the depths of a staffing crisis that is piling on ever increasing stress. 

68% of respondents told us that there are unfilled junior doctor posts in their departments. 73% told us there are frequently or always rota gaps for the rotas they are working. Meaning more often than not, junior doctors are taking on the workload of more than one person, sometimes two.

Junior doctors are caught in a vicious cycle; there are unfilled posts because, as indicated by an earlier BMA survey, doctors are leaving for better pay and conditions.

This increases pressure on those still working in the NHS and increases the likelihood of them opting out of a career that isn’t offering fair pay or conditions too. If this situation is allowed to fester, the implications for patient care could be far reaching. 


Substandard working conditions

Adding to the burden of being permanently understaffed, are the day-to-day conditions junior doctors must contend with. Many told us they are unable to get a decent meal and aren’t able to take proper breaks. While nearly half say there isn’t a mechanism to travel safely to and from work when working out of hours. 

At times on night shifts I’ve had to sleep on the floor, if only for a few minutes before getting called to do a job. This doesn’t help wellbeing, and as a profession it doesn't show any value
Roshan Rupra, CT1 surgical trainee

These survey results make for grim reading and offer an insight into the unhealthy work environment of junior doctors, but we can tackle the root causes and start building the road to recovery.

To keep up to date with our campaign for full pay restoration for junior doctors and show your support, follow @TheBMA on Twitter and Instagram.