Heavy workloads erode training

OVER 43 per cent of doctors in training have reported their workload as 'heavy' or 'very heavy', prompting concern at the GMC that training time is being eroded.

These findings emerged from the 2016 national training survey in which the GMC canvassed opinions from around 55,000 doctors in training. While most doctors continue to rate their training experience positively, there were areas of concern.

Among those trainees reporting their daytime workload as 'very heavy' or 'heavy', this was most marked in emergency medicine (78.4 per cent), gastroenterology (63 per cent), respiratory medicine (61 per cent), general internal medicine (60 per cent) and acute internal medicine (59.7 per cent). All these percentages have increased over the last five years.

The survey also revealed that over half of doctors in training reported working beyond their rostered hours, and up to 25 per cent said their working patterns left them sleep-deprived on a weekly basis – another worsening trend in recent years.

Doctors with excessive workloads said that they were more likely to have to leave teaching sessions to answer clinical calls and were forced to cope with clinical problems beyond their competence and often with inadequate handovers from colleagues.

The GMC’s Chief Executive, Charlie Massey, said: "We know the very real pressures our healthcare services are under and appreciate the challenges organisations involved with the training of doctors are facing, but it is vital training is not eroded.

"Those responsible and accountable for the delivery of medical education locally must take appropriate steps to ensure the training of doctors remains protected. Medical training is so often a bellwether for the quality and safety of patient care and patients are directly at risk if support and supervision of doctors in training is inadequate."

Responding to the survey findings, Dr Pete Campbell, BMA junior doctors committee chair, said: "Patients and the public may be shocked by these findings, but no junior doctor will be surprised. It is still far too common that junior doctors are left sleep deprived after regularly working beyond their rostered hours, on rotas that are desperately short of doctors.

"We cannot accept a situation where vital training time is being sacrificed in the face of rising pressures on services. This is a short-sighted approach that is already having an impact on the quality of patient care. We need to maintain a highly trained medical workforce if the NHS is to continue to deliver a world class service for patients, and protecting and valuing training time is absolutely vital to achieving this."