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GMC expresses concerns over trainee doctor burnout

Nearly one in three trainee doctors have said they feel ‘exhausted’ even before starting a shift, according a GMC survey.

The survey of 70,000 trainee doctors and doctor trainers, part of the GMC’s annual national training survey, also found that nearly a quarter of trainees feel ‘burnt out’ by their work.

Regarding trainee doctors, the survey also revealed:

  • Almost half regularly work beyond their rostered hours;
  • One in five say they often feel short of sleep while at work;
  • 40% described the intensity of their work as ‘heavy or very heavy’.

Trainers also reported heavy workloads, with a third saying it was hard to find the time they need to fulfil their educational roles.

GMC chief executive Charlie Massey said: ‘We can put off no longer the need to give doctors in training – who make up a fifth of all doctors – the resources they need and deserve.

‘As a regulator we are doing all we can, through programmes of work to address doctors’ wellbeing and by giving them the confidence to raise concerns and have them acted on.

‘But it will take investment to solve the issues doctors are telling us about. Those responsible for allocating healthcare funding across the UK must ensure proper provision is made for education and training.’

BMA junior doctors committee chair Dr Jeeves Wijesuriya said: ‘The BMA has warned of the physical and emotional toll that long hours, anti-social rotas and unsafe staffing levels can take on junior doctors and we hope that these survey results will prompt employers, politicians and policymakers to take action.

He added: ‘It is unacceptable to see such a large proportion of junior doctors reporting being burnt out, given the intense pressure trainees continue to be placed under in the NHS and it’s no surprise that an increasing number of doctors take a break in their training when poor employment practices and pressures throughout the healthcare system are having such a detrimental effect on their health and wellbeing.

‘Since the 2016 contract was imposed on junior doctors, we’ve made some good progress in a number of areas aimed at improving the working lives of trainees, but these figures show more needs to be done to give junior doctors the respect and working lives they deserve.’

The BMA and the Government announced that they had reopened negotiations of the junior doctor contract in May, remaining in dispute over the unilateral introduction of the contract in 2016.

The GMC added that it is analysing the survey results in more detail, and working with education providers to make sure improvements are made where training falls below expected standards.

The GMC is set to publish a more detailed report based on the findings later in the year.