The state of medical education and practice barometer survey 2021

Key findings

  • The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a major impact on the day-to-day work of doctors. Over one in three (35%) doctors were redeployed over the last year and nearly half (46%) have been providing more patient care remotely than face to face.
  • The frequency that doctors report feeling unable to cope with their workload on a weekly basis (30%) has increased since 2020 (19%) and returned to levels seen in 2019 (28%). Burnout has also increased across all measures and these have largely returned to 2019 levels, suggesting the cumulative impact of working through the pandemic is taking its toll on doctors’ wellbeing.
  • Some of the improved ways of working in response to the pandemic reported in the 2020 survey appear to be being sustained, particularly in relation to teamworking and sharing of knowledge across the medical profession.
  • Pressure on workloads and delays were flagged by most doctors as barriers to patient care.  They were also identified as contributing factors to specific patient care or safety compromises they had witnessed.
  • Almost three in five (58%) doctors felt they would be very or fairly likely to make a career change in the next year, most commonly seeking to cut down their workload either by reducing their contracted hours (35%) or moving to a role with less clinical workload (24%).
  • Common factors associated with wanting to make career changes were feelings of burnout and frustration; feeling a lack of support from management; the impact of the pandemic on access to development or learning opportunities; and pressure on workload impacting patient care.
  • The proportion of doctors that have taken action towards leaving the UK profession rose to 7% in 2021, up from 4% in 2020.

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?

The questionnaire, as in previous years, covered doctors’ satisfaction in their working lives, career intentions over the next year, experiences in the workplace and adaptations to pressurised environments. As in 2020, we also included questions that explored the ways in which doctors’ working lives have changed due to the pandemic.

3,386 doctors currently working in the UK completed the Barometer survey between 7 June and 18 July 2021. To make sure 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

The state of medical education and practice barometer survey 2021
The 2021 barometer survey data tables