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GMC publishes results from National Training Survey 2021

The General Medical Council (GMC) has published the results from its latest National Training Survey.

The publication, which features findings from what’s believed to be the ‘largest annual survey of doctors in the UK’, is intended to provide insight into the experiences of around 63,000 medical trainees and trainers.

Charlie Massey, GMC Chief Executive and Registrar, explained in a foreword that: “This year’s results tell us that during a time of extraordinary challenge, high quality training has continued thanks to the dedication and commitment of trainers, trainees, and education organisations.”

However, while noting “positive responses to questions on teaching, supervision, and overall training experience”, which “remain at pre-pandemic levels”, pandemic-related workforce wellbeing concerns were flagged.

Charlie states that “intense workplace pressures” have caused “burnout rates to increase to their highest levels” since GMC’s tracking began in 2018. The organisation found that a third of trainees said they felt “burnt out to a high or very high degree”, with a quarter of secondary care trainers and more than a fifth of GP trainers reporting the same.

In response to this, Charlie added: “Support for staff is key. It must be central to service and training recovery plans at both local and national levels. Without this concerted focus, it will be increasingly difficult to retain doctors, enable progression, and ultimately develop a more sustainable workforce to meet current and future patient needs.

“Working and training environments must be supportive, fair, and inclusive. Too many doctors still face discrimination and disadvantage in education, training and beyond. We’re redoubling our work with partners across the system to eliminate these inequalities.

“It’s also clear that training must become more flexible to adapt to future pressures and changing demands.”

The survey questions focus around five themes related to medical standards: learning environment and culture; educational governance and leadership; supporting learners; supporting educators; developing and implementing curricula and assessments.

While the report summarises the findings related to: quality of training and experience; doctors’ wellbeing; training recovery and provision during the pandemic; and supportive environments.

Of the more than 63,000 respondents – 46,793 were trainee doctors and 16,414 were trainer doctors.

In the 18-page report, key findings to take away from 2021 include:

  • Overall, 76 per cent of trainees rated the quality of teaching as ‘good ‘or ‘very good’, however this was lower in specialities such as medicine and obstetrics and gynaecology, which rated it as 69 per cent
  • 88 per cent described clinical supervision as ‘good’ or ‘very good’, while 85 per cent of trainees said they had a ‘good’ or ‘very good’ experience in their post
  • As for trainers, 91 per cent said they enjoyed their role, but only 47 per cent said they were able to use the time allocated to them to train people
  • A third of trainees – around 33 per cent – of those that responded to questions about burnout, said that they felt burnt out to a ‘high/very high degree’ because of their work – compared to a quarter in previous years
  • Three in five trainees said they ‘always or often’ felt worn out at the end of the working day, with 44 per cent saying work is emotionally exhausting to a ‘high/very high’ degree
  • For trainers, 25 per cent said they felt burnt out to a ‘high/very high degree’ due to work – a rise of two pp since 2019 – while the same was also true for 22 per cent of GP trainers – which was a swing of five pp since 2019.
  • When asked about virtual learning environments, 74 per cent of trainees said they were ‘being used effectively to support training’
  • Most trainees – 73 per cent – had been able to ‘participate in the expected number of workplace-based assessments’, but 25 per cent had not
  • Four in five trainees – 81 per cent – agreed that their working environment is ‘fully supportive’ and 70 per cent said staff are ‘always treated fairly’
  • Around 63 per cent of secondary care trainers felt valued by their trust/board but 14 per cent did not, while 77 per cent thought their trust/board provided a supportive environment for everyone, regardless of background, belief or identity
  • 96 per cent of GP trainers agreed their practice was ‘fully supportive’, with 99 per cent saying this was regardless of background, belief or identity.

On how the GMC intends to act on these results, the report stated that, in regards to staff wellbeing: “We remain clear that addressing this is vital, for individuals, for the system, and for patient safety. A key priority for us is to help create supportive and inclusive training and working environments, which prioritise staff wellbeing and deliver quality patient care. We’ve made that commitment central to our strategy for the next five years.

“Making medical training more flexible and adaptable and tackling inequality within medical training were also highlighted, with the organisation having set a target to “eliminate discrimination, disadvantage and unfairness in undergraduate and postgraduate medical education and training by 2031.”

To read the National Training Survey 2021 in full, click here.