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Reaction to the GMC’s The State of Medical Education and Practice 2019 report

Professor Dame Jane Dacre, President at the Medical Protection Society, said:

This report echoes our own concerns about the increasing level of burnout in healthcare. It is perhaps one of the great paradoxes of our age, that modern medicine allows doctors to do more for their patients than ever before, yet increasing evidence shows that doctors feel burnt out and disillusioned in ever greater numbers.

“Doctors need to be supported so they stay in practice, rather than quit or move abroad. When doctors feel burnt out it is not only concerning for them but for the wider team and patients. We know that doctors who continue to work while unfit to do so are more likely to make mistakes.

“The healthcare community as whole must take urgent steps to improve the working environment and regain the sense of value that we get from being a doctor. Only with organisational level interventions can the wellbeing of doctors be safeguarded.”

Professor Jackie Taylor, the President of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow said:

“It’s clear that while workforce pressures continue to impact on the wellbeing of clinicians, more and more will choose to reduce their working hours. We need to address this issue urgently by recruiting more doctors into the NHS.

“Notwithstanding the critical workforce pressures that exist in the health service, we believe that flexible and less than full time working should be a positive choice for our members at all phases of their careers. That’s why we joined with other health bodies earlier this year to call for increased flexibility in the NHS workplace. This report underlines our argument that we need to have a single planning group for workforce issues within the NHS, so that we can properly monitor this issue and plan for a modern medical workforce which is fit for the future.”

Dr Udvitha Nandasoma, MDU medico-legal adviser said:

“The latest report from the GMC on the state of medical education and practice makes for sobering reading. The fact that over a quarter of doctors reported feeling unable to cope with their workload at least once a week and that many colleagues, particularly GPs, are at risk of burnout, will sadly not come as a surprise to the profession.

“It is encouraging to see the GMC recognises the pressures doctors face. It is vital that the GMC also considers these pressures when investigating complaints about doctors. We are pleased that the number of complaints made to the GMC has fallen over the past five years but do not underestimate the shock for members informed of an investigation.

“At the MDU we are only too aware of the high levels of stress under which our members work in a stretched NHS system. We welcome the GMC’s positive suggestions within the report including the need to better match workforce supply and patient demand, increased flexibility in training and working patterns and a focus on doctor wellbeing and workplace culture. We are exploring with the GMC and others ways to bring about these necessary changes.

“The need to work from time to time in conditions that are less than ideal will inevitably pose medicolegal risks for doctors and they can turn to the MDU for support.  Medicolegal advice is available to our members 24 hours a day through our advisory helpline.”

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said:

“Crucially, as this report notes, exhausted and burnt out doctors, overwhelmed by demand, are struggling to provide the level of care that patients deserve. This is affecting quality and safety of the care that’s being delivered. It’s clear that the impact of the state of the NHS is being felt across the whole profession – from juniors beginning their careers, to experienced hospital doctors and GPs.

“When we already have 10,000 medical vacancies in the NHS, the Government and employers need to do more to retain the existing workforce. This means recognising the flexible working patterns that doctors are increasingly opting for, and as the BMA has consistently called for, a learning rather than a blame culture in the health service.

“As the trade union for doctors and medical students, the BMA is central to this process, and in the last year we have made significant progress towards improving the working lives of doctors. We have guaranteed extra funding for hospitals to improve rest facilities for junior doctors, removed the significant cost of clinical negligence indemnity for GPs in England and Wales, and secured a government commitment to review perverse pension tax legislation.

“But there is much more to do. The new government must prioritise our valuable NHS workforce, giving it the resources it needs, legislating for safe staffing levels and scrap the damaging pension tax rules that mean doctors are too often penalised for going to work.”

Suzie Bailey, Director of Leadership and Organisational Development at The King’s Fund, said:

“Staff shortages in the NHS are creating a vicious cycle of increased pressure on doctors, nurses and allied health professionals, which in turn leads to more of them choosing to reduce their hours or leave their profession altogether.

“Research by The King’s Fund showed that less than three in every 10 trainee GPs intends to work full time in general practice one year after qualifying. The intensity of the working day was the most common reason for choosing part-time work, with some GPs concerned about maintaining standards of care as they grappled with increased workloads.

“The new government’s plans for health and care will rely on having adequately staffed services. As well as recruiting more staff, it is crucial that services hold on to and develop the staff they already employ.”

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