One in four trainee British doctors report high burn-out

Two young doctors working on a patient in the emergency room at a UK hospital
Two young doctors working on a patient in the emergency room at a UK hospital
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A quarter of trainee doctors report feeling burnt out to a high or very high degree, with two in five saying they find their work “emotionally exhausting”, research by the medical regulator has found.

The General Medical Council (GMC) found nearly a third (31.6 per cent) of trainees said they always or often feel exhausted in the morning at the thought of another day at work.

It has published a full review of its latest annual national training surveys, which collate the views and experiences of more than 70,000 doctors in training and senior doctors who act as trainers.

The 2018 surveys asked doctors about burnout for the first time.

Burnout is associated with high workloads, a lack of or disruption of time to train, and feeling unsupported, and can also affects trainees’ satisfaction with their medical education.

Doctors in emergency medicine reported the highest rates of burnout.

Nearly 74 per cent of emergency medicine trainees rated the intensity of their workload as either “heavy” or “very heavy”, and they reported feeling short of sleep while at work more than any other specialty.

Trainees who reported higher than average workloads and tiredness also included those who specialised in surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology, and paediatrics.

Other areas of concern from the surveys included that around one in six trainees said handover arrangements did not always ensure continuity of care between different clinical departments, while one in three said handovers were not used as learning opportunities, which GMC standards say they should be.

Inductions also varied, with more than 4,000 trainees (8.1 per cent) reporting that they did not get an explanation of their role and responsibilities at the start of their most recent post.

And more than half of doctors in training, almost 53 per cent, told the GMC that they received less than the recommended six weeks’ notice of their rota.

Around one in 10 had only a week’s notice, or even less.

The GMC said poor handovers and inductions, and gaps in rotas, should be seen by employers as indicators of more significant problems that can affect the quality of trainee doctors’ education and development.

It found that while trainers and training organisations continue to provide high quality medical education, trainees rated their experience as worse when they had poor handovers, inadequate inductions and gaps in rotas.

GMC chief executive Charlie Massey said: “Handovers, inductions and well-organised rotas are indicators of workplaces where teamwork and positive cultures are fostered.”