Raising awareness of the effect of burnout on medical education and development

Each year, we run our national training surveys, where we ask all doctors in training and trainers about their experiences of training.

The feedback from over 70,000 doctors is essential to help us, along with education providers and postgraduate deans, drive improvements in the quality of medical education and training.

In 2018, we introduced new survey questions on burnout – a state of prolonged physical and psychological exhaustion, which is perceived to be related to a person’s work. In response to the new questions, almost a quarter of doctors in training and one fifth of trainers told us they felt burnt out. Our analysis of the results showed that burnout may be associated with high workloads, rota gaps and the lack of a supportive working environment. All of these factors have the potential to put patients at risk.

Our message to employers in our 2018 report was loud and clear – they must protect time for training to address the underlying causes of poor wellbeing in doctors and risks to patient safety.

The report sparked widespread discussion among doctors, medical students and education providers, as well as across mainstream media outlets.

National Medical Director at Health Education England, Professor Wendy Reid said: ‘Health Education England recognises the issues that the latest GMC national training survey raises.

We know that being a junior doctor is rewarding, but it is also challenging, and can be more stressful when there is poor rota planning or lack of support.’

We’ll continue to use our data and insights to raise awareness of the pressures that affect doctors and can have implications for patient safety.

Creating training and working environments that encourage positive wellbeing is in the interests of both doctors and the patients they care for. That’s why in 2018 we also commissioned an independent review of doctors’ and medical students’ wellbeing.

The review, chaired by Dame Denise Coia and Professor Michael West, aims to improve understanding of the circumstances behind poor mental health and wellbeing in medicine, and to identify interventions that can make a difference for doctors, students and for patients.