GP trainers work longer hours than trainers in hospitals

GP trainers are working longer hours than trainers in hospitals and the heavy workload is having a detrimental impact on their health and wellbeing, the GMC has said.

The GMC's Training Environments 2018 report found that nearly 60% of all GP trainers work beyond their normal working hours on a daily basis and 90% do this on a weekly basis, a much higher proportion than trainers in other specialties.

Among trainers working in secondary care, 22% said they worked beyond their rostered hours daily and 72% did so weekly.

The GMC said that the heavy workloads were having a detrimental impact on GP trainers' health and wellbeing. Two thirds (67%) often or always feel worn out at the end of the working day, over half (52%) describe their work as 'emotionally exhausting' and a third (33%) report feeling short of sleep at work on a daily or weekly basis, the report found.

This is the first time that the Training Environments report has provided specific data on GP trainers.

Some 20% of the 2,896 GP trainers who took part in this year's survey said that not enough time for training is allocated in their working week, and 18% said that they were not always able to use their allocated time for that purpose. Most trainers (92%) also said the demands of clinical work are not always dealt with appropriately to make sure that trainees are not adversely affected.

Despite this, 95% said that they enjoyed being a GP trainer and 97% believe they are supported in their working environment. 

GP training

The report found that GP trainees rated the quality of their training and the quality of the clinical supervision they received more highly compared with trainees in other specialties.

However, it also revealed high levels of burnout among all doctors in training. As GPonline reported earler this year, a quarter of trainees said they feel burnt out to a high degree and a third said even the thought of work was enough to make them feel 'exhausted’.

GPC policy lead for education, training and workforce Dr Helena McKeown said: 'These statistics lay bare the workload pressures faced by GPs today. It should be a wakeup call to everyone to exactly how hard our family doctors are working.

'Almost two-thirds of those surveyed worked beyond their normal hours every day, and worryingly one in three reported being short of sleep. No one wants to be treated by a doctor that is tired and overworked – and the potential impact on patient safety should ring alarm bells.

'That the clear majority of GPs are – at the same time as seeing a large number of patients who are increasingly living with more complex conditions – able to still make time to train the next generation of GPs is a testament to their commitment to the profession.

'We are in the midst of a recruitment and retention crisis, and this survey proves that we must improve the working lives of both the present and future GP workforce if we are to ensure the sustainability of general practice for years to come.'

Dr Andrew Proctor, a GP trainer at Roath House Surgery in Cardiff, who took part in the survey, said: ‘The main challenges we face in delivering training include the ever-increasing workload, and having to adapt the way we work to meet demands – such as the increased use of triage and working with allied healthcare professionals.

‘Despite the challenges, it is encouraging that GP trainees are reporting high levels of satisfaction – it is important that the emphasis on training is not lost within the growing workload in primary care.’

The GMC said it had commissioned a UK-wide review into the causes of poor wellbeing faced by doctors, and the regulator is also working with professional bodies across the country to ‘improve the effectiveness of processes’ for doctors who raise concerns about safe working hours.

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