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Enhancing trainee doctors lives work continues

16 June 2020

A report published by Health Education England (HEE) today outlines the many improvements that are being made to enhance the training experience of doctors and improve their well-being.

This is the 4th annual report describing the work that HEE, with doctors in training and partners including the British Medical Association Junior Doctor Committee (BMA JDC), NHS Employers, the Medical Royal Colleges, the General Medical Council (GMC) and have undertaken to improve the issues trainees said were important to them.

Key achievements include:

  • Expanded the Less Than Full Time training pilot to all junior doctors in Paediatrics and in Obstetrics & Gynaecology.
  • Working with the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), commenced recruitment for the second cohort of Flexible Portfolio Training.
  • Pilots for Out of Programme Pause (OOPP) went live in selected specialties across four local office sites. The first junior doctors to undertake OOPP are now returning from their OOPP placements.
  • The Supported Return to Training programme (SuppoRTT) has become an integral part of HEE core services.
  • The first-year evaluation report showed that over 750 junior doctors accessed. SuppoRTT during a 6-month period.
  • Introduced a number of Foundation Priority Programmes to attract and support doctors in under-doctored geographies and shortage specialty areas. The first cohort of foundation junior doctors will begin in post in August 2020.

Professor Sheona MacLeod, Acting Medical Director and Director of Education and Quality, Health Education England said:

“I am delighted that we continue to make progress in improving the lives of our doctors in training, especially at this of challenging time. COVID-19 has impacted all of us in ways we could have never imagined but it has shown more than ever that the strength of the NHS is its people, their incredible depth of compassion and their adaptability. We must prioritise education and training in our future service planning to ensure we continue to develop a happy and resilient workforce that is able to provide the highest quality patient care.”

Professor Colin Melville, Medical Director and Director for Education and Standards at the GMC said:

We know from our own research into doctors’ wellbeing that flexible training hours can make a huge difference for doctors who need better work-life balance or time for their own health needs. We hope the growing number and variety of less than full time posts ensure more doctors can pursue long, successful careers in our health service. We welcome this report and HEE's continued committment to improving doctors' training.

‘Trainees now also have greater freedom if they wish to switch specialities thanks to new guidance that allows the counting of relevant learning. This should take away the stress of starting at square one and reduce course overlap. We want to continue to build on this in learning lessons from COVID-19 to evolve medical education over the coming months and years.’

Professor Carrie MacEwen, Chair, Academy of Medical Royal Colleges said,

‘Mechanisms to ensure that doctors in training are able to work in a less rigid and supported fashion have become increasingly important as the link between an empowered, happy workforce and good patient care is more widely recognised. This is the 4threport on the many collaborative initiatives to improve opportunities for all doctors in training – and is particularly timely as we celebrate the flexibility and professionalism they have demonstrated during the Covid-19 pandemic.’

Dr Sarah Hallett, BMA junior doctors committee chair, said:

It is hugely positive to see continued progress made through collaborative work from all stakeholders involved in the Enhancing Junior Doctors Working Lives group. “We are delighted that many of the schemes for increased flexibility have continued to be expanded and built upon, including wider access to less than full time training and out of programme opportunities.

“The professionalism and adaptability of junior doctors has been proven in ways we never could have predicted during the recent pandemic. 

“It is crucial that we continue to build upon this work, in an NHS that continues to operate under huge pressures, and ensure that the individuals within these systems are fully and properly supported.”

The Enhancing Junior Doctors’ Working Lives programme was established in March 2016, to address a range of issues that were negatively impact the quality of life for doctors in training. In our first report, HEE acknowledged that this was just the start of a process of focused improvement to training, we subsequently produced an update report in 2018 and 2019.

Link to report and more info