Medical training too reliant on doctors' goodwill, says GMC

Press Release

27 Nov 2017

Education and training for doctors is too reliant on the goodwill and sacrifices made by senior colleagues who act as trainers, the General Medical Council (GMC) warns today.

We mustn’t take the continued high quality of medical training across the UK for granted.

Charlie Massey, GMC Chief Executive

The GMC’s training environments report, based on its annual survey answered by more than 75,000 doctors, reveals the pressures faced by senior doctors who provide training for junior colleagues.

Doctors who act as trainers have to fit their training roles around daily duties as either consultants or GPs, and almost half told the GMC that to do so they have to work beyond their rostered hours each week. Nearly a third do so daily.

Around one in three trainers report that their job plans do not allow them enough time to fulfil their trainer role.

Charlie Massey, GMC Chief Executive, said:

‘Trainers are the backbone of medical education, and more must be done to value them and to give them the support they need.

‘Employers must ensure trainers receive the resources and time they need to meet their education and training responsibilities. Job plans must include adequate provision for senior doctors to provide training.

‘Doctors in training are in a live learning environment, but for that to continue it has to be made sustainable in the long term. It is not right that there is such a reliance on trainers always somehow finding the time, often their own time, to keep the system going.

‘We mustn’t take the continued high quality of medical training across the UK for granted, and we cannot afford to lose the services of trainers by abusing their dedication and goodwill.’

Yet despite the pressures, most doctors in training continue to rate the quality of their training highly. Just over 75% described the quality of teaching in their post as ‘good’ or ‘very good’.

However, the GMC’s report highlights the challenges still faced by trainees, who say that heavy workloads threaten the time they have for training. Almost one in four doctors in training report feeling short of sleep at work on a daily or weekly basis.

Charlie Massey added:

‘Training environments must be supportive, and trainees must have access to resources that support their health and wellbeing. Heavy workloads and extreme tiredness can exacerbate health problems, and we are looking at ways we can work with others to better support doctors’ mental health.’     

The GMC’s report Training environments 2017: key findings from the national training surveys is available at:

Notes to editors

The General Medical Council (GMC) is an independent organisation that helps to protect patients and improve medical education and practice across the UK.

  • We decide which doctors are qualified to work here and we oversee UK medical education and training.
  • We set the standards that doctors need to follow, and make sure that they continue to meet these standards throughout their careers.
  • We take action when we believe a doctor may be putting the safety of patients, or the public's confidence in doctors, at risk.

We are not here to protect doctors - their interests are protected by others. Our job is to protect the public.

We are independent of government and the medical profession and accountable to Parliament. Our powers are given to us by Parliament through the Medical Act 1983.

We are a registered charity (number 1089278 with the Charity Commission for England and Wales, and number SC037750 with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator), we have to show that our aims are for public benefit.

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