Trainee doctors believe heavy workloads put patients at risk, survey shows


A poll of 55,000 UK doctors in training for the General Medical Council (GMC) found that 43 per cent described their daytime workload as “very heavy” or “heavy”. 

This rose to 78 per cent of doctors in emergency medicine, with workloads in all areas having got worse over the last five years. 

Over half of doctors in training said they regularly work beyond their agreed rota hours, and up to 25 per cent said their working patterns left them sleep-deprived on a weekly basis. 

The report also found that doctors with the highest workloads were more likely to report patient safety concerns. 

Those who described their workload as very heavy had twice as many concerns about patient safety as those who thought their workload was about right.

They were also six times more likely to feel forced to cope with clinical problems beyond their competence on a daily or weekly basis. 

The report said: “This has worrying implications for the safety of patients, doctors in training, and public confidence. Our standards are clear that doctors in training should not be expected to find themselves in such a situation.” 

The poll also found that, when compared with doctors in training who said their daytime workload was about right, those who described their daytime workload as heavy or very heavy were three times more likely to have to leave a teaching session to answer a clinical call once or multiple times each session. 

The report said: “While we acknowledge that treatment in busy environments is an occupational inevitability, training time should be protected as much as possible.” 

Compared to 2014, more than twice as many doctors responding to the GMC survey in 2016 used the opportunity to raise worries about patient safety.

Some 838 doctors reported a local patient safety issue in 2016 compared to 404 in 2014.

The GMC warned that many doctors in training are working under such significant and growing pressure that it threatens the training they need to become GPs and consultants. 

TA Department of Health spokesman said: “We want to support our junior doctors. That”s why the NHS has employed 11,900 more doctors since 2010. 

“Yesterday, the Health Secretary announced plans to improve junior doctors” training, including more support from consultants, more notice of future placements including where couples are placed, reviewing the appraisals process and investing £10m to bring doctors back up to speed when they take time out to have a family or other caring responsibilities.”