Research recommends priorities for training in the event of future COVID-style disruption
Consistency, communication and care in doctors’ training must be prioritised should another health crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic occur, new research published by the General Medical Council (GMC) shows.
The study, commissioned by the GMC and carried out by Newcastle University and University of Manchester, evaluated the changes made in 2020 to support doctors to continue their training during the pandemic. It looked at how the changes were perceived and what lessons could be learned for future events.
Changes were made to exam formats and processes, allowing exams to be taken remotely. Practical clinical examinations also used simulated and online consultations.
For annual reviews of competency progression (ARCP), when postgraduate doctors in training are assessed to ensure they are progressing against the curriculum, new measures allowed postgraduate doctors to progress when training activities were disrupted by COVID.
The research found that changes were perceived positively by most respondents and helped to mitigate the challenges presented by the pandemic. It also highlighted the need for timely communication around exam changes, and clear guidance to support the consistency of ARCP processes.
But the research found varied views on keeping such changes on an ongoing basis following the pandemic. Issues highlighted included technical risks for online exams and the loss of face-to-face interaction for ARCP panel colleagues, when conducted online.
"These learnings won’t just inform future exceptional events, they’ve provided us with valuable insights into the changes we need to be adopting longer term, here and now on education and training."
Professor Colin Melville
Medical Director and Director of Education and Standards
Researchers identified three priorities should another disruptive event, like the pandemic, occur.
- Consistency of educational processes across regions and specialities, for example in guidance provided to trainers and trainees.
- Communication that is clear and timely, for example around exam changes, with IT and digital infrastructure in place for organisations and users.
- Care of staff. Data identified the considerable impact on wellbeing, managing the impact of developing crises alongside education and professional development.
Most felt ending the changes in 2023 was appropriate, and that they should be reserved for potential future disruption.
Professor Colin Melville, Medical Director and Director of Education and Standards at the GMC, said:
‘It’s great to hear views are largely positive on the action taken to support trainees and educators, during a rapidly developing and uncertain period. This research also identified some of the more practical challenges we can anticipate and prepare for, should we face a similar significant event in future.
‘These learnings won’t just inform future exceptional events, they’ve provided us with valuable insights into the changes we need to be adopting longer term, here and now on education and training.’
You can read the research, Evaluating the Wider Impacts of Changes to UK Medical Education in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.