Doctors who train less than full time face no regulatory barriers to pursuing locum work, the GMC has confirmed after lobbying by the BMA.
A statement published by the medical regulator confirms that the GMC has no role in determining what LTFT (less than full-time) trainees can or cannot do outside of training hours.
The revised statement updates guidance originally issued by the GMC in 2011, which, while stating that LTFT trainees meet a 50 per cent minimum of full-time training hours, made no mention of how hours outside of training could be used.
The GMC’s decision to update its position has been welcomed by BMA junior doctors committee chair Jeeves Wijesuriya, who said it would strengthen the position of LTFT doctors penalised at a local level by being denied opportunities for locum work.
He said: ‘It is encouraging that in response to BMA lobbying the GMC has updated its position on trainees who work less than full time, to clarify that there is no GMC barrier with regard to what a doctor chooses to do outside of their training programme hours, including locum work.
‘Providing greater flexibility and work-life balance for those with childcare and other commitments outside of their employment will help create an environment that reflects the needs of our changing workforce.
‘The issues with the current LTFT system have caused concern for thousands of trainees partly owing to local LTFT arrangements lacking adaptability, which often means trainees have to jump through administrative hoops or simply are unable to develop a flexible working pattern.
‘In the midst of a recruitment and retention crisis, we do need to encourage an environment and career path for trainees that is flexible as well as meeting the needs of patients.
‘The GMC’s new position will go some way to easing these concerns and it is now important this message is communicated to employing organisations, postgraduate deans and trainees across the UK.’
A recent survey by the association found that around one-third of LTFT trainees who responded claimed that they were ‘always’ or ‘mostly’ prevented from doing locum shifts as a result of their LTFT status.
BMA LTFT forum co-chairs Maddy Fogarty-Hover and Ruth-Anna Macqueen have welcomed the updated GMC statement as it would make a considerable and positive difference for the hundreds of doctors working less than full time.
They said: ‘Today’s announcement by the GMC, that as the regulator for all doctors in the UK it takes no view over what doctors do outside of their training programme hours, is a hugely important step towards addressing the inequalities faced by LTFT staff.
‘LTFT trainees must still get permission from their postgraduate deans to undertake these locum shifts. However, with this clarification from the GMC we envisage that access to locum shifts should improve.’
GMC director of education and standards Colin Melville said his organisation would continue working with other organisations to improve flexibility around doctors’ working.
He said: ‘We know doctors’ circumstances vary widely, and that many need more flexibility while they are training. In our recent survey of doctors in training more than half told us they were considering less than full-time training.
‘It remains up to deans and employers to consider individual proposals for less than full-time training but, if they can accommodate it, there is no barrier from the GMC about what doctors do outside training.
‘We are working with other organisations to maximise the options doctors have to adapt their training to their personal circumstances, while at the same time ensuring more flexible systems work for patients and service providers as well as for doctors.’
Earlier this year, the BMA, in conjunction with HEE (Health Education England) and the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, announced plans for a pilot scheme that would allow junior doctors training in emergency medicine the opportunity to work LTFT to make work and training more compatible with non-work commitments.
Read the BMA’s guidance on LTFT working
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