Burnout “unsurprising” among medical trainees

  • Date: 29 July 2021

A THIRD of medical trainees report feeling "burnt out" to a high or very high degree because of their work, according to the GMC’s annual national training survey.

This figure is up from around a quarter reported in previous years. Three in five trainees said they always or often felt worn out at the end of a working day and 44 per cent felt their work was "emotionally exhausting" to a high or very high degree.

The annual national training survey was completed by more than 63,000 UK doctors, all of them either trainees or trainers.

The GMC also reports that responses to seven wellbeing-related questions, across all medical specialties, saw a swing towards negative answers compared to previous years. Responses to questions about burnout were the worst since the survey was introduced in 2018.

Charlie Massey, chief executive of the GMC, said: "It is not surprising that burnout has worsened during the pandemic, but we cannot expect doctors to continue to operate at this level of intensity. As health services emerge from Covid pressures will remain, but we must not risk reversing the gains that have been made in recent years."

Despite the impact of the pandemic, 76 per cent of trainees rated the quality of teaching as ‘good’ or ‘very good’, and 88 per cent described their clinical supervision as ‘good’ or ‘very good’. These figures are comparable to pre-pandemic levels – although one in 10 trainees were concerned about progressing through their training.

Dr Sarah Hallett, BMA junior doctors committee chair, said: "Any junior doctor reading these findings will sadly not be surprised about the high levels of burnout among the profession, though it still makes for sobering reading.

"Junior doctors have helped keep the NHS on its feet throughout the pandemic, working grueling hours in often unfamiliar settings, and have seen death and serious illness on a scale that even the most experienced doctors had never seen before.

"During this time, while the NHS rallied to meet the urgent task at hand, training often regrettably had to take a back seat… The toll taken on the training of those in ‘craft’ specialties – in which trainees require practical experience of specific procedures, and which includes surgeons, ophthalmologists and cardiologists – is stark, with 43 per cent not on course to undertake the expected number of procedures. This is not sustainable.

"We are the consultants, GPs and specialists of the future, and the highly-skilled clinicians that the NHS will rely on for decades to come. As the health service moves to the next phase of managing the pandemic and working through the huge backlog of care, the wellbeing and training needs of junior doctors must be prioritised."

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