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HEE pledges greater support for junior doctors

Health Education England (HEE) has outlined its commitment to supporting doctors during their transition from medical school to training and working as doctors.

Its review of the Postgraduate Medical Foundation Programme in England, published this week, shared the need to help specialties and regions that particularly require more doctors, and support doctors from a more diverse range of backgrounds.

The review report, titled ‘Supported from the start; ready for the future’ studies how improvements in training could be implemented across England. 

It advised how although the vast majority of foundation doctors enjoy good learning experiences throughout their training, more should be done to ensure doctors feel valued, supported and able to work safely. 

HEE will now focus on: 

  • Promoting specialties and areas of the country where more doctors are needed, with incentives to encourage trainees to choose to train in them
  • Distributing new foundation doctor training places in the geographical areas where they are needed most, in alignment with regional plans
  • Creating a common framework for early years career support to tie with the NHS people plan and better inform doctors in training’s expectations about the changing needs of the NHS in England
  • Working with NHS Employers to develop a foundation doctor charter setting out how local education providers will support foundation training including best practice and minimum standards
  • Supporting trainees, employing trusts and trainee supervisers to ensure that high quality supervision is being consistently delivered in the interests of patient safety and quality of care 
  • Launching a formal consultation to explore what can be done to best support doctors from a wider range of backgrounds once they join the foundation programme

Chair of education and training for the BMA’s Junior Doctors’ Committee Dr Sarah Hallett said the BMA welcomed the proposals, which would ‘have the potential to make a significant difference to the lives of future trainee doctors’ if enacted.

She added: ‘Proposals such as improving access to training and flexibility of working percentages for doctors who are less than full time are long overdue but very welcome; similarly a move to provide dedicated time for professional development would have an instant positive impact on junior doctor work-life balance.

‘While innovative approaches to improve staffing in areas with fewer doctors are necessary, the introduction of Foundation Priority Programmes must not reduce the ability for trainees to choose where they train, nor replace efforts to improve working conditions in these areas.

‘These recommendations do not necessarily mean that change will be immediate, however, the BMA will continue to engage with this work to ensure trainee doctors of the future ultimately benefit from the positive steps set out in this report.’

Medical director and executive director of education at HEE Professor Wendy Reid said: ‘This review forms a very key part of a significant programme of work we are leading with partners to reform medical education.

‘We want to make sure that doctors are fully supported in the transition from medical school into training in a working clinical environment and from Foundation into specialty training. This includes making sure they have the best possible educational support and supervision.

‘We can’t do this alone and this is why we are working with partners from across the NHS. These doctors are our future and we need to do everything we can to support them to provide the safest and highest quality care to patients and provide them with an outstanding training experience.’ 

This announcement, which also gained support from the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, will be followed with an implementation plan that sets the delivery of the recommendations. 

It comes in the same month the GMC’s annual UK training report disclosed that a third of trainee doctors don’t know who to speak to at work about their wellbeing, with over a quarter of trainee doctors reporting feeling unsafe when travelling to or from out-of-hours or long shifts.