A collaboration between Health Education England (Wessex) and the University of Southampton
The state of medical education and practice in the UK 2021

The state of medical education and practice in the UK 2021

This report from the General Medical Council describes data from the National Training Survey 2021 and Barometer surveys undertaken in June-July 2021 in 3386 doctors who were mainly white, specialist doctors, over 50. The report covers: 1) work in the pandemic (remote working, workload, support, team work, patient care, burnout and job satisfaction reported by demographics, 2) experiences and challenges in postgraduate medical education (quality of teaching, protected time, rota gaps, career progression, less than full time training, 3) workforce (licences to practice, emergency registration, Interim Foundation doctors, international medical graduates, medical students in the UK, intentions to leave, doctors that have left), 5) building towards a positive future (compassionate cultures, medical associate professions, using technology).

There are no surprises in the report. Workloads have increased, with GPs being the most greatly affected in terms of working beyond paid hours, feeling unable to cope, feeling unable to provide sufficient care and being at high risk of burnout. This is unlikely to improve when a worrying 7% of barometer respondents said they had taken hard steps towards leaving the profession, up from 4% last year.

The same problems with equality and diversity persist with disabled and Asian doctors feeling less supported by their teams. A staggering 41% of trainees said they had not been able to compensate for loss of training opportunities, with 10% being behind with curriculum competencies and 20% now not prepared for their next relevant exam. Trainees in surgery and obstetrics and gynaecology were most impacted.

Given the continuing deficit of doctors, due to so many leaving because of workload, and the clear need to support every doctor, I was saddened to read that 55 doctors had applications to train less than full time rejected, and that in 2021 only 15% of trainees are training less than full time. To expand and retain our workforce we need to be “flexible by default” as promised in the NHS People Plan and yet it is still the exception, and not the rule, that undergraduate and postgraduate training is offered less than full time.

The take home message for me from this report was that while we wait for reinforcements to our workforce, we need to all be more compassionate towards each other, and that includes being appreciative of the time our colleagues can give to the NHS, rather than focusing on the time they can’t. Flexible training and working should be possible for all and will allow us to continue to work in the NHS.

Read the full report here.

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