Changes to doctors’ working practices emerging from the pandemic
Why we commissioned this research
- The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about large-scale and rapid changes in how healthcare services are delivered and used, and doctors have been required to change and adapt their practice in response.
- We commissioned Trajectory to conduct research looking at the changes and adaptations to doctors’ working practices that have emerged during the pandemic.
- We wanted to better understand the impact of changes on patients, doctors and the wider system, as well as the conditions that enabled these changes to take place, and the likely challenges of sustaining them in the future.
What did the research involve?
- A desk review of existing evidence.
- Eight focus groups split between GPs, secondary care clinicians, doctors in training, and those on SAS/LED contracts. Each group contained four to six doctors.
- 19 depth interviews with clinical leads, practice managers and NHS and private hospital managers.
The research identified various areas where doctors’ practice has changed during the pandemic and explored the impact of these changes on patients, doctors, and the wider system. The key areas of change identified were:
- Digitally enabled remote working: There has been a major shift in the use of technology to enable more remote working, including remote consultation and monitoring. This has supported the healthcare system to function over the pandemic, in particular during lockdowns.
- Shifts in roles and responsibilities within the multi-disciplinary team: Alongside extensive redeployment, the pandemic has driven many changes in the ways that doctors work with their colleagues, both in their own teams, and across the healthcare system.
- Reconfiguration of patient care pathways: Teams across the healthcare system pulling together to support each other has paved the way for service and pathway innovations. This has included implementing more direct access to specialist care, and greater separation of acute and elective care settings.
- Managing the patient care backlog: The UK healthcare system is faced with tackling the backlog in non-covid patient care, putting an already stretched workforce under even more pressure. Different approaches to allocating resource and new initiatives to support doctors have emerged during the pandemic.
The factors identified as most important for enabling positive change to be sustained include robust investment in staff and technology, expanded and flexible guidance, and shifts in culture.