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Burnt out doctors feel exhausted before they start a shift - GMC survey shows

Nearly a quarter of trainee doctors say their work makes them feel ‘burnt out’, and almost one in three say they are often ‘exhausted’ in the morning at the thought of another shift, according to a General Medical Council (GMC) survey.

The GMC has today (Monday 9 July) published the initial findings from its annual national training surveys, a detailed UK-wide poll of more than 70,000 doctors in training and doctors who act as trainers.

Almost half of trainees reported regularly working beyond their rostered hours, and around one in five say they often feel short of sleep while at work. Forty per cent described the intensity of their work as ‘heavy or very heavy’.

Trainers also reported heavy workloads, with a third of them saying it was hard to find the time they need to fulfil their educational roles.

"Doctors are working in highly pressured environments and they are telling us that as a result they are struggling to find time for essential training. This is a major concern for us. Training must be protected and safe, and employers need to address this urgently."

Charlie Massey

General Medical Council Chief Executive

Ahead of presenting the findings at the Patient Safety Congress in Manchester later today (Monday), Charlie Massey, Chief Executive of the GMC, said:

‘Doctors are working in highly pressured environments and they are telling us that as a result they are struggling to find time for essential training. This is a major concern for us. Training must be protected and it must be safe, and employers need to address this urgently.

‘But it is also important that the wider issues reported in our surveys, around work-life balance, burn-out and exhaustion, are acted on. We can put off no longer the need to give doctors in training – who make up a fifth of all doctors – the resources they need and deserve.

‘As a regulator we are doing all we can, through programmes of work to address doctors’ wellbeing and by giving them the confidence to raise concerns and have them acted on. But it will take investment to solve the issues doctors are telling us about. Those responsible for allocating healthcare funding across the UK must ensure proper provision is made for education and training.’

The national training surveys were open between March and May this year. The GMC is now analysing the results in more detail, and working with education providers to make sure improvements are made where training falls below expected standards. A more detailed report based on the findings will be published later in the year.

Also published today is the second in a series of GMC reports into doctors’  ‘training pathways’, looking at the reasons, motivations and experiences of doctors who choose to take a break during their training.

It found the three main reasons for taking a break in training were the doctors’ health and wellbeing – including their work-life balance – uncertainty about their choice of specialty and career direction, and dissatisfaction with their training environment.

But, according to the report, a break in training does not necessarily mean a break from working in medicine. Many doctors spend the time working in UK healthcare, in medicine abroad or studying.

The GMC’s national training surveys initial findings report, and the report on doctors’ training pathways, are available online.

 

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