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Only two in five junior doctors go straight into GP or specialty training

There has been a significant decline in the proportion of junior doctors who straight go into GP or specialty training following their foundation year.

The number fell from 50.4% to just 42.6% in 2017, marking a stark contrast to 2011 when 71.3% went straight into specialty training.

The BMA linked the fall to the ‘struggling NHS’, while the report from the UK Foundation Programme said the most common reason for a career break was travel.

It comes a month after a BMA survey found that one in 10 junior doctors has taken time out of training over concerns for their health and wellbeing.

The figures showed a small increase in the proportion of doctors who went into GP specialty training – from 33% to 35% but still lower than the 36% seen in 2012.

Dr Jeeves Wijesuriya, BMA junior doctors committee chair, said the figures were striking but not surprising for those working in ‘an under-resourced and struggling NHS’.

‘Our own research published last month showed that junior doctors often feel that after two years on the foundation programme, they need to step off the treadmill of training and take a step back before making such a major decision over their future career.’

He said figures suggest that most of those who have taken time out in the past return to training but there is no guarantee this will continue.

‘More work must be done to tackle to underlying reasons behind these breaks, which we know are due to the systemic pressures within the health service that put junior doctors at serious risk of burnout.’

In response to the report, NHS Education for Scotland said they were modernising training to be more flexible.

Medical director Professor Stewart Irvine said it was reassuring that nearly 90% of doctors who complete the foundation stage go on to enter specialty or core training in the UK within three years but it was vital to recruit and train enough staff to deliver quality healthcare.

He added that included expanding the number of GP training places.

‘That’s why as well as promoting quality training and lifestyle for healthcare staff in Scotland, we are modernising training programmes to ensure that they deliver the right blend of flexibility and skills for trainees.’