Most junior doctors now know someone who has left soon after training due to pressure.

by Nadeem Badshah

THE mounting workload of doctors needs to be urgently addressed to prevent more stressed-out medics leaving the NHS, health campaigners have cautioned.

They have warned of a “brain drain” depriving UK hospitals of talent. A General Medical Council (GMC) survey found a quarter of young doctors feel “burnt out” by the strains of the job.

In 2017, only 43 per cent of junior medics stuck to their NHS career path after finishing their first two years of training, down from 71 per cent in 2011.

And GPs were under more pressure with evening and weekend appointments available throughout England in the run-up to Christmas and New Year (from December 18). NHS England said patients would have access to around nine million extra appointments per year outside normal working hours.

Dr Jeeves Wijesuriya, the British Medical Association’s junior doctors committee chair, told Eastern Eye the issue can also impact patient safety and there is “still a lot of work to be done in improving both the training that junior doctors need to guarantee the quality and resilience of our future NHS, and the quality of working life that they deserve.

“To see such a large number of junior doctors burnt out is deeply concerning, but no surprise given the intense workload pressures experienced by trainees,” Dr Wijesuriya said.

“These statistics lay bare the real-terms impact of poor planning; if a doctor is working in an understaffed department, not getting a rota until two weeks before they are due to begin a new role and even when they do start they are receiving no proper induction, this is bound to be detrimental to their wellbeing and affect how they feel about the quality of their training.

“Indeed, we know from our research that physical and mental health issues
remain some of the key drivers behind junior doctors taking time out of their training programmes.

“But burnout affects so much more than quality of training, and as this report notes, heavy workloads can have patient safety implications.

“The BMA continues to work to support trainees both with contractual protections and support for their wellbeing in a system under pressure, and the GMC’s focus on exception reporting and raising concerns here is to be welcomed.”

NHS England insisted the new weekend and evening GP service will help ease pressure on the health service during the winter period.

But a recent investigation revealed more than one-in-four GP appointments were left unused at weekends in pilot areas where the extended hours were available.

Dr Kailash Chand, a GP, said there needs to more focus on doctors’ wellbeing and less formfilling and admin tasks.

He told Eastern Eye: “Meeting patients’ demands, a lack of time, and excessive bureaucracy are the top three causes of workplace stresses. “I believe the changing face of the doctor-patient relationship – now impeded by burdensome administrative tasks – the increasing reliance on technology while delivering care and the mandate to cut
costs are quickly leading to burnout for many physicians.

“The worst affected with burnouts are the trainee doctors.

“NHS should remove mandatory training requirements and replace it with professional development as it used to be when I was a trainee.

“Implement half day or quarter day release for all doctors in training built into the working week. And access to supervision for all consultants, access to career counselling and flexible training rather than the system we have where you start again at the bottom of a ladder if you change your career.”

Rohit Chitkara left the NHS four years  after graduating from University College London due to burnout.

The 28-year-old, who is now a consultancy graduate at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said: “You are kind of a slave to a rota. I know several people who had to organise a two, three, four-way swap for their own wedding day, despite asking six months in advance.

“There’s lots of big egos; you have lots of doctors arguing with each other over
a patient.”

He added: “People who have spent their whole lives dreaming of becoming a doctor are leaving.

“Every medical student now knows of a doctor who’s left.”

NHS England said at least £3.5 billion will be invested in primary medical and community services that will also improve access to weekday “in hours” services.