GP trainees taking time out to safeguard health, BMA poll reveals

More than half of junior doctors have taken breaks from training, BMA research reveals, with GP trainees among those most likely to do so to protect their own health and wellbeing.

BMA junior doctors committee chair Dr Jeeves Wijesuriya
BMA junior doctors committee chair Dr Jeeves Wijesuriya

A total of 28% of doctors training in general practice said they had taken a break from training for their health and wellbeing, according to a BMA survey.

The survey found that 56% of junior doctors overall had taken a break from training. Most paused their training after foundation year two, the survey found.

Just over a quarter of junior doctors (26%) who had taken breaks in training did so in order to go abroad, with maternity or paternity leave the second-most common reason at 24%.

GP training

A total of 19% of respondents to the BMA poll said they took a break for 'health and wellbeing' reasons, but among GP trainees this rose to 28%, and to 31% for doctors who were undecided about which specialty to choose.

GPonline has previously reported that around half of doctors entering GP training posts do not go into these roles direct from foundation level training.

Findings from the survey suggest that 'general practice is especially unattractive for the current cohort of junior doctors', a BMA report warns.

Among doctors in training, almost three in five said their ultimate career goal was to become a hospital consultant, while around 5% said they planned to become a GP principal. A similar proportion planned to become salaried GPs - but this is far below the government's stated goal of persuading half of medical graduates to become GPs.


BMA junior doctors committee chair Dr Jeeves Wijesuriya said: 'Each year, more junior doctors are opting for a break from clinical training and this research from the BMA offers a real insight into both why they are making these decisions, and what they are doing with this time away from training.

'With many saying they needed more time to decide on their speciality after completing their foundation years, we must work with education providers to consider the underlying reasons for junior doctors wanting to take a step back before committing to a certain career path. Further, with work-life balance and the ability to take future breaks key factors in career decisions for today's junior doctors, it is evident that workforce planning must take into account this need for greater flexibility.

'As junior doctors, we experience unsustainable pressures in the NHS on a daily basis. Working conditions in the health service appear to have significant impact on where junior doctors see themselves working at the completion of their training, with workload and staffing levels major factors. It is concerning that a significant number of junior doctors said they took a break for health and wellbeing reasons, while describing heavy workloads and low morale during their training.'

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