Last updated:

Number of junior doctors suffering burnout is ‘deeply concerning’

Responding to a General Medical Council survey of 70,000 doctors that found a quarter of junior doctors feel burnt out1, Dr Jeeves Wijesuriya, BMA junior doctors committee chair, said:

“To see such a large number of junior doctors burnt out is deeply concerning, but no surprise given the intense workload pressures experienced by trainees, and as reported in this survey.

“These statistics lay bare the real-terms impact of poor planning; if a doctor is working in an understaffed department, not getting a rota until two weeks before they are due to begin a new role and even when they do start they are receiving no proper induction, this is bound to be detrimental to their wellbeing and affect how they feel about the quality of their training.

“Indeed, we know from our research2 that physical and mental health issues remain some of the key drivers behind junior doctors taking time out of their training programmes.

“But burnout affects so much more than quality of training, and as this report notes, heavy workloads can have patient safety implications. With a high proportion of junior doctors working beyond their rostered hours and as many as half of trainees in some specialties regularly feeling short of sleep, high quality patient care cannot be guaranteed.

“That more than two-thirds of trainees feel forced to work beyond their clinical competence at times makes for stark reading – and the potential risk that this poses should be obvious.

“The BMA continues to work to support trainees both with contractual protections and support for their wellbeing in a system under pressure, and the GMC’s focus on exception reporting and raising concerns here is to be welcomed.

“However, reports like this show there is still a lot of work to be done in improving both the training that junior doctors need to guarantee the quality and resilience of our future NHS, and the quality of working life that they so deserve.”

The survey also looked at the experiences of GP trainers for the first time, finding that 58 per cent worked beyond their normal hours every day.

Responding specifically to the GP findings, Dr Helena McKeown, BMA GP committee policy lead for education, training and workforce, said:

“These statistics lay bare the workload pressures faced by GPs today. While they may not make for surprising reading for GPs themselves, it should be a wakeup call to everyone else to exactly how hard our family doctors are working.

“Almost two-thirds of those surveyed worked beyond their normal hours every day, and worryingly one in three reported being short of sleep. No one wants to be treated by a doctor that is tired and overworked – and the potential impact on patient safety should ring alarm bells.

“That the clear majority of GPs are – at the same time as seeing a large number of patients who are increasingly living with more complex conditions – able to still make time to train the next generation of GPs is a testament to their commitment to the profession.

“We are in the midst of a recruitment and retention crisis, and this survey proves that we must improve the working lives of both the present and future GP workforce if we are to ensure the sustainability of general practice for years to come.”


Notes to editors

The BMA is a trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.

  1. See ‘Training environments report 2018’ for full results
  2. For more information see the BMA’s Career Trends Survey

For further information please contact:

British Medical Association, BMA House, Tavistock Square, London, WC1H 9JP
Telephone: 020 7383 6448 
Email: [email protected]
Media centre | Twitter | Youtube - BMA TV | Flickr