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SuppoRTTive Culture


Many trainees have found that the culture of their workplace has proven to be an obstacle when they return to training, and this can prove to be a barrier to accessing SuppoRTT resources. In order for trainees, patients and the wider NHS to benefit from the valuable resources that SuppoRTT offers, we need to ensure that trainees returning to work are welcomed into a positive, supportive working environment.

Everyone within the health service has a role to play in creating this positive culture, and improving the culture for returning trainees has a knock-on effect in improving culture in the whole NHS; leading to better wellbeing for staff, and safer patient care.


For the SuppoRTT programme to succeed, we need to ensure that it is backed up by a positive training environment.

A film has been launched July 2021, featuring an array of people promoting supportive culture for returning trainees; from trainees themselves to consultants, academics and NHS leaders.


"Supporting returning trainees helps create a safer, more positive culture for our patients and our whole NHS." (Dr Navina Evans, Chief Executive, Health Education England)

"When people return to training, we've got to make sure that they feel like they are cared for, valued and supported; we've got to help them feel a sense of competence and contribution, so that they grow in their confidence and deliver for the patients and the communities we serve." (Professor Michael West CBE)

You spoke, we listened

We had an incredible response to our surveys looking at the culture around returning to training. Thank you.

We are currently building all of these into a report and using this to develop projects to improve the culture around returning to training. Your thoughts and responses will make a genuine difference to the culture around returning to training in the future. You can read more here in December 2021.


We will soon be releasing an e-learning resource: Building a More SuppoRTTive Culture. This looks at the importance of a supportive, positive culture for returning trainees, and how this links to the importance of a positive culture within the wider NHS.

We have worked closely with healthcare leaders and academics including Dr Navina Evans, Professor Michael West CBE and Professor Jim Barrie to put together an engaging, interactive learning resource, which includes videos and practical advice about improving the culture in your own workplace.


The value of mentoring has been recognised for many years and it is a particularly powerful tool for trainees at points of career transition such as returning to work. 

HEE has a cohort of trainee peer mentors who are here to help support trainees in their return to training. Mentorship can help you to;

  • Reflect on your current abilities

  • Set out achievable as desirable goals

  • Develop clinical skills

  • Boost confidence

  • Increase self-belief.

It is also a brilliant opportunity to talk to a peer who can relate to your situation and share their experiences.

Each regional HEE office has its own mentoring programme; please see our own local SuppoRTT pages for more information.

E-learning resource on mentoring 


The following people have passionately backed our campaign to Build a more SuppoRTTive Culture for returning trainees:

Professor Michael West CBE: Currently a Senior Fellow at the King’s Fund, Professor of Work and Organisational Psychology at Lancaster University, and Emeritus Professor at Aston University. He has authored more than 20 books, and published over 200 articles on teamwork, leadership and culture, particularly in healthcare. 

His latest book, Compassionate leadership: Sustaining wisdom, humanity and presence in health and social care is available now. The book presents ‘an evidence-based approach to transforming the leadership and cultures of health and social care teams and organisations. Practical, powerful, and compelling, it describes a strategy based on the core human value of compassion, showing that by sustaining that value in health and social care, we can cultivate wisdom, humanity, presence and high-quality in health and care services. Supplemented with practical resources, case examples and searching questions for discussion, it offers a simple, radical and powerfully effective strategy for change’. 

Supporting returning trainees is one aspect of positive NHS culture and we must ensure that all of our NHS people are treated with the compassion and support they need and deserve; because we know that this is what delivers staff wellbeing and high quality patient care.

Dr Caroline Elton: An occupational psychologist who has spent the last twenty years training and supporting doctors. She received her PhD from University College London's School of Medicine and set up and led the Careers Unit supporting doctors in over seventy hospitals across London. She is passionate about improving the working lives of doctors, and is the author of Also Human: the Inner Lives of Doctors, a book which uses case studies of real doctors to examine the struggles which doctors face in their professional lives.

'With a compassionate eye for detail and a deep understanding of just how the systems we train and practice in as doctors can fail us as human beings, Caroline Elton offers a crucial and timely reminder that doctors are Also Human.' - Atul Gawande, author of Being Mortal.

Dr Navina Evans:

Dr Navina Evans was appointed as the Chief Executive of Health Education England in 2020. She started her career as a psychiatrist, progressing to consultant psychiatrist before taking on management responsibilities. She worked her way up to clinical director and had responsibilities around medical education and training. Unusually, as a clinician, Navina took on the role of chief operating officer and deputy chief executive, before becoming ELFT’s chief executive in August 2016. She is a passionate advocate for improving medical education.

Prerana Issar: 

Prerana Issar is the first NHS Chief People Officer. In joining the NHS, Prerana brings a wealth of expertise in leadership development and strategic talent management, as well as diversity and inclusion. 

Prior to joining the NHS, Prerana was Director for Public-Private Partnerships at the United Nations and prior to that she was the Chief Human Resources Officer for the World Food Programme. During this time leading the development of the United Nation’s first strategic human capital approach, as well as the reform of many key policies. Before the United Nations, Prerana worked for over 15 years at Unilever Plc, starting with them in India and then for several years was in global roles at Unilever’s headquarters in London. Her last role in Unilever was Vice-President HR for the Global Foods business.

Professor Jim Barrie:

Jim Barrie graduated from Edinburgh University and trained in orthopaedics in the northwest of England, Liverpool and Baltimore.

Prior to retiring from clinical work, Jim specialised in adult foot and ankle problems. He holds an MA in clinical education and now works as Senior Lecturer in Medical Education at Edge Hill University. Jim is committed to improving culture within the NHS, and has worked closely with the SuppoRTT team to create our e-learning resource on Building a More SuppoRTTive Culture.


Further resources

The King’s Fund: Improving NHS Culture

The Kings's Fund: Culture Change Through Collective Leadership

Caring for doctors, caring for patients

BMA: Caring, supporting, collaborative: a future vision for the NHS

Enhancing Junior Doctors' Working Lives