The state of medical education and practice barometer survey 2020

Key findings

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has inevitably had a huge impact on the day to day working lives of doctors. Four fifths (81%) of doctors report that the changes to their working lives have been significant, and four in ten (42%) were redeployed
  • Doctors reported a wide variety of changes they experienced, but most commonly these involve remote working and reduced face to face patient contact, fewer ‘routine’ procedures being carried out, the need to wear PPE, and changes to working patterns
  • Some of these changes have had positive impacts. Doctors are most likely to have felt positive impacts on teamwork between doctors (62%), sharing of knowledge across the medical profession (54%) and speed of implementing change (49%). However, the data indicates that fewer BME doctors experienced these positive impacts compared to white doctors
  • Doctors felt that most of these positive changes could be sustained in future, but there is less optimism for speed of implementing change
  • It is also positive that, compared to 2019, fewer doctors are struggling with high workloads (15% vs 26% in 2019) and burnout (10% vs. 16% in 2019)
  • However, the pandemic has, and will continue to have, concerning negative impacts on doctors. Three in ten (32%) report that they have experienced a negative impact on their mental health and wellbeing, while four in ten (41%) said that access to development or learning opportunities had been negatively affected
  • Over four in ten doctors (43%) have witnessed a situation where either their own or a colleague’s safety had been compromised in 2020, which four-fifths (80%) attributed to lack of PPE
  • Although patient safety compromises do not appear to be more frequent than in 2019, where these did occur, over half (50%) were attributed to lack of access to equipment or services
  • Half (57%) of doctors are considering making a career change in the next year, a significant decrease compared to 2019 (71%). Despite this, a similar proportion have taken solid steps toward leaving the profession (4%).

Why we commissioned this research

Every year we report on the state of medical education and practice in the UK. We use our data, wider research evidence and analysis to provide comprehensive insight into the profession.

The barometer survey is one of the key sources of evidence that underpins our report. The survey is run annually and is designed to gain evidence of how doctors’ experiences of practising in the UK are changing. This informs our work to support doctors and address the challenges and pressures they're encountering.

What did the research involve?

As in 2019, the questions in the Barometer survey covered doctors’ satisfaction in their working lives, career intentions over the next year, experiences in the workplace and adaptations to pressurised environments. The 2020 questionnaire was adapted in light of COVID-19 and included new questions that explored the ways in which doctors’ working lives changed due to the pandemic.

3,693 doctors currently working in the UK completed the Barometer survey between 15th June-19th July 2020. To ensure findings are representative of all licensed doctors, weighting was applied using GMC population data on age, registration status, ethnicity and place in which primary medical qualification was gained.

Full report

Download The state of medical education and practice barometer survey 2020

Download The 2020 Barometer survey data tables