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Trainee doctors report heavy workloads and safety concerns

Some trainee doctors are working beyond their competence due to huge workloads, with many worried about patient safety, a new poll shows.
Trainee doctor workloads

Some trainee doctors are working beyond their competence due to huge workloads, with many worried about patient safety, according to a new report.

A poll for the General Medical Council (GMC) of 55,000 UK doctors in training found that 43% described their daytime workload as very heavy or heavy.

This rose to 78% of doctors in emergency medicine, with workloads in all areas having increased over the past 5 years.

Beyond agreed hours

More than half of doctors in training said they regularly work beyond their agreed rota hours, and up to 25% said their working patterns left them sleep-deprived on a weekly basis.

The report also found that doctors with the highest workloads were more likely to report patient safety

Some trainee doctors are working beyond their competence due to huge workloads, with many worried about patient safety, according to a new report.


Up to 25% of doctors in training said their working patterns left them sleep-deprived
on a weekly basis. Picture: iStock

A poll for the General Medical Council (GMC) of 55,000 UK doctors in training found that 43% described their daytime workload as ‘very heavy’ or ‘heavy’.

This rose to 78% of doctors in emergency medicine, with workloads in all areas having increased over the past 5 years.

Beyond agreed hours

More than half of doctors in training said they regularly work beyond their agreed rota hours, and up to 25% said their working patterns left them sleep-deprived on a weekly basis.

The report also found that doctors with the highest workloads were more likely to report patient safety concerns.

Those who described their workload as very heavy had twice as many concerns about patient safety as those who thought their workload was about right. They were also six times more likely to feel forced to cope with clinical problems beyond their competence on a daily or weekly basis.

The report said: ‘This has worrying implications for the safety of patients, doctors in training and public confidence. Our standards are clear that doctors in training should not be expected to find themselves in such a situation.’

Training interrupted

The poll also found that, when compared with doctors in training who said their daytime workload was about right, those who described their daytime workload as heavy or very heavy were three times more likely to have to leave a teaching session once or multiple times to answer a clinical call.

‘While we acknowledge that treatment in busy environments is an occupational inevitability, training time should be protected as much as possible,’ the report said.

Compared with 2014, more than twice as many doctors responding to the GMC survey in 2016 used the opportunity to raise worries about patient safety; 838 doctors reported a local patient safety issue in 2016 compared with 404 in 2014.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘Yesterday, the health secretary announced plans to improve junior doctors’ training, including more support from consultants, more notice of future placements, reviewing the appraisals process and investing £10 million to bring doctors back up to speed when they take time out to have a family or other caring responsibilities.’

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