GP trainers working long hours under heavy pressure, GMC survey shows

More than four in five GP trainers face heavy workloads - and most work beyond their basic working hours every day, a GMC survey reveals.

A total of 81% of GP trainers across the UK describe their workload as heavy or very heavy, according to the GMC's 2019 national training survey.

More than half (57%) of the 6,148 GP trainers who responded said that they work beyond their rostered or basic working hours on a daily basis, with a further 31% doing so at least once a week.

Only two thirds of trainers who responded to the poll agreed that they were always able to use time allocated for their role as a trainer 'specifically for this purpose'. Despite these findings, however, a staggering 95% said they enjoy their role as a trainer overall.

GP training

Among 13,386 GP trainees who responded to the survey, more than nine out of 10 rated the quality of clinical supervision they received during training and the quality of experience as good or very good. GPs were more likely to rate training highly than trainees in other medical specialties, the survey found.

GP trainees were also slightly less likely than trainees across all specialties to report frequent working beyond rostered hours, or heavy intensity of workload. A total of 11% worked beyond their rostered hours daily and 29% weekly - while 3% said the intensity of workload was very heavy, and 27% heavy.

Across all trainees, reported intensity and working beyond basic hours has reduced gradually over the past three years, the survey shows. It also found that a third of trainees overall were unsure who to ask for help if they had concerns about their own health or wellbeing - a figure that fell to around a quarter among GP trainees.

GMC chief executive Charlie Massey said: ‘We’re pleased that trainees are continuing to see improvements to their working hours and to their training, showing that employers are working hard to tackle issues highlighted by the surveys. However, those efforts must continue if we are to support the excellent doctors we have.

Wellbeing

‘We all must do more to address the causes of poor wellbeing, starting with making sure that every doctor working in the UK knows who they can turn to in their organisation if their health and wellbeing is suffering.

‘Doctors work long hours in highly pressured environments, and they need support. We are concerned about how work pressures impact on the mental health and wellbeing of doctors, which could ultimately impact patient care. We’ve commissioned a UK-wide review, chaired by Dame Denise Coia and Professor Michael West, to address this important issue.’

BMA GP committee workforce lead Dr Krishna Kasaraneni said: 'That GP trainers are facing high workloads and regularly working longer hours than they should be is concerning, but not greatly surprising.

'Recent BMA research revealed that three-quarters of GPs – and 85% of partners – are working significantly more hours than they’re contracted to, which can have a hugely detrimental impact on their wellbeing.

'General practice continues to be blighted by a workforce crisis, and if we are to encourage more trainees into family medicine while persuading experienced doctors to stay, the working environment for both must be vastly improved.

'Trainers do a fantastic job of helping develop the next generation of GPs, and that they manage to do this at the same time as providing high quality care to a growing number of patients is a testament to how hard they are working.'

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