One in four trainee doctors feel burnt out, GMC survey shows

A quarter of trainee doctors are suffering from burnout, a GMC survey shows, with one in three saying even the thought of work is enough to make them feel 'exhausted'.

GMC chief executive Charlie Massey
GMC chief executive Charlie Massey

Almost 25% of trainees who took part in the GMC's annual training survey 2018 said that work made them feel 'burnt out', while a third said that they are often or always exhausted before they start a new shift.

Initial findings show that almost half of the 51,956 trainees who took part in the GMC’s UK-wide poll reported regularly working beyond their rostered hours. On top of this, one in five said they often felt short of sleep at work, while 40% described their workload as ‘heavy’ or ‘very heavy’.

Trainers also reported heavy workload, with a third (approximately 6,400) saying that high levels of work made it hard to find time to fulfil their educational roles.

Doctor burnout

In total, more than 70,000 doctors in training and doctors who act as trainers took part in the GMC survey. Well over half of trainees and just under half of trainers said that they 'often' or 'always' felt worn out at the end of the working day.

However, the survey also showed that the majority of trainees were satisfied with their overall educational experience.

GMC chief executive Charlie Massey said: ‘Doctors are working in highly pressured environments and they are telling us that as a result they are struggling to find time for essential training. This is a major concern for us. Training must be protected and it must be safe, and employers need to address this urgently.

‘But it is also important that the wider issues reported in our surveys, around work-life balance, burnout and exhaustion, are acted on. We can put off no longer the need to give doctors in training – who make up a fifth of all doctors – the resources they need and deserve.’

Workload

The findings come just months after GP leaders backed plans to promote safe working limits in general practice.

Mr Massey added: ‘As a regulator we are doing all we can, through programmes of work to address doctors’ wellbeing and by giving them the confidence to raise concerns and have them acted on. But it will take investment to solve the issues doctors are telling us about. Those responsible for allocating healthcare funding across the UK must ensure proper provision is made for education and training.’

Another report published by the GMC today titled ‘Training pathways 2: Why do doctors take breaks from their training?’ found that  ‘health and wellbeing’ and ‘dissatisfaction with training environment’ were among the most popular reasons for doctors taking breaks.

BMA junior doctors committee chair Dr Jeeves Wijesuriya said: ‘It is unacceptable to see such a large proportion of junior doctors reporting being burnt out, given the intense pressure trainees continue to be placed under in the NHS and it’s no surprise that an increasing number of doctors take a break in their training when poor employment practices and pressures throughout the healthcare system are having such a detrimental effect on their health and wellbeing.’

Safety warning

He hoped the findings would prompt employers, politicians and policymakers to heed the BMA’s previous warnings about the state of the healthcare education system and take action.

‘Since the 2016 contract was imposed on junior doctors, we’ve made some good progress in a number of areas aimed at improving the working lives of trainees, but these figures show more needs to be done to give junior doctors the respect and working lives they deserve,’ Dr Wijesuriya warned.

Last month it was announced that more trainee GPs had been recruited in 2018 than ever before

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