This site is intended for health professionals only

Almost 40% of trainee doctors change their mind about specialty training in foundation years

Over a third of trainee doctors who originally intended to go into specialty training, including GP training, decided against it during their foundation years, according to new research published in the BMJ.

The career destinations survey of 5,570 second year foundation doctors found that 38% of respondents who originally intended to pursue specialty training actually did something different. In contrast, only 14% of those without this original intention changed their mind and did go into a training post.

It also found that almost two thirds of doctors take a career break, work in non-training posts or work abroad after completing their two-year foundation programme.

This means only 42% of new doctors are pursuing specialty or core training posts, including general practice. The study found this had a negative impact on service delivery due to unfilled training posts and insufficient doctors trained to consultant level.

The authors of the study said medical training and NHS workforce planning should adapt to meet the needs of junior doctors choosing to delay their careers.  

The study, led by Gillian Scanlan, PhD candidate at University of Aberdeen, said: ‘This intelligence is critically important as it can inform policy in terms of how many more doctors are needed to be trained in order to have an adequate consultant workforce in the future, as well as informing the future research agenda on this topic.’

The researchers added: ‘Workforce planning needs to take into account that more than half of those finishing the foundation programme do not go directly into specialty training. This does not mean, however, that they are lost to the workforce. We suggest extending the number of opportunities for doctors at this stage of their career, and skills and competences gained in this time be formally recognised.’

The report concluded: ‘We propose that the discourse in the UK needs to change from concern that foundation year two doctors wish to take time out of training post-foundation programme, to one of acceptance that things must change, and systems need to adapt.’

The research follows the NHS interim workforce plan which pledged to promote portfolio careers for newly qualified GPs and nurses.

The full plan is expected to be published following the next spending review in the autumn.

Complete relevant Ear, nose and throat CPD modules on Pulse Learning by registering for free, or upgrade to a premium membership for full access at only £89 a year.