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Squeeze on NHS undermines juniors' training

Jeeves Wijesuriya, Junior doctors committee
WIJESURIYA: 'Trainees feel that they are not getting access to the level of training that they deserve'

Junior doctors are not getting access to the training they need and deserve amid rising demand and tightening budgets in the NHS.

That is the finding of a GMC report which warns that education and training for doctors is too reliant on the goodwill and sacrifices made by senior colleagues who act as trainers – with inadequately staffed rotas hurting the ability of junior doctors to gain the experience and competencies they need to progress through training.

The GMC training environments report also finds that one in three trainers said they did not have enough time to fulfil their training role.

The report also highlighted the heavy workloads that junior doctors face that often mean they have little time for training and often report to work sleep-deprived.

BMA junior doctors committee chair Jeeves Wijesuriya said action needed to be taken to return staff to ‘manageable hours’ and give trainees access to ‘appropriate clinical development opportunities’.

He said: ‘A combination of the intensity of this work and inadequately staffed rotas mean that both trainees and the senior doctors who train them feel that they are not getting access to the level of training that they deserve. The Government and NHS managers need to work more closely with organisations like the BMA to develop a coherent workforce plan.

‘We need an approach that both expands staffing levels to reduce pressure on overstretched services and ensures we have a system, enforced in every trust, where every junior doctor is able to work in a positive, safe climate with manageable hours and with access to appropriate development opportunities.’

The GMC report reveals that trainees feel heavy workloads threaten the time they have for training, with almost one in four doctors in training reports feeling short of sleep at work on a daily or weekly basis.

GMC chief executive Charlie Massey said: ‘Training environments must be supportive, and trainees must have access to resources that support their health and well-being.

'Heavy workloads and extreme tiredness can exacerbate health problems, and we are looking at ways we can work with others to better support doctors’ mental health.’

Responding to the report, NHS Employers chief executive Danny Mortimer said his organisation was working on guidance to assist with ‘good-practice rota design’ which he hoped would ‘contribute to the improved work life balance’ for doctors.

He said: ‘Employers acknowledge that further culture change is needed in terms of safe working conditions, and new systems and processes introduced as parts of the 2016 contract take time to bed down. The most extreme examples cited by Mr Massey and the GMC are thankfully rare but are, we accept, not right for the doctors, their colleagues or their patients.’

Read the report

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