A growing range of factors are negatively affecting the wellbeing and morale of trainee doctors in the UK, from time and workload pressures to a lack of physical resources, a journal warns.
The recent junior doctor’s contract dispute in England has brought many of these issues to the fore, although it is not solely to blame for trainees feeling under-valued, the Journal of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh says.
Many of the concerns trainees express have been growing in recent years. Despite a number of changes to the way training is delivered (for example the Shape of Training and compliance with the European Working Time Directive) and a commitment by organisations to valuing their trainees, only 39% of these doctors rate the quality of their training experience as excellent (2015 GMC survey).
Consultants are experiencing increased pressure and workloads, given the need to provide consistent services throughout the week, and this is compromising their ability to train juniors.
Traditional medical team structures are changing to meet the needs of today’s workforce and patients, but the support networks a close knit team can provide to a trainees health and wellbeing, including their mental health, should not be forgotten, the journal says.
Dr Katherine Walesby, Chair of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh’s Trainees and Members’ Committee, and one of the authors of the paper said: “Trainees are the future of medicine in the UK. Their wellbeing and morale are important not just at an individual level but as a reflection of a functioning, sustainable and valued workforce that makes up the NHS.
“This is a complex topic, but the College has identified a number of areas where improvements can be made including securing protected time for training, which ultimately leads to safer patient care. The values of time to care, time to train and time for research must become an intrinsic part of the culture of the NHS.”
Trainees have also reported frustrations with accessing IT systems and resources, and having suitable spaces to work in, discuss challenging cases, rest and take meal breaks.
Professor Derek Bell, President of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, said: “Many of the difficulties identified by trainees are common to the whole NHS workforce, and require collective ongoing discussion to find answers.
“This will ensure that medicine remains an attractive career and enable us to recruit and retain to this very rewarding profession. By doing so, we will not only be nurturing our trainees, the future of medicine, but also safe-guarding future patient care.”