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Being a junior doctor

The NHS provides some of the highest-quality, most efficient and most accessible healthcare in the world.

We attract doctors from across the globe with our world-renowned programmes of medical training and our thriving medical community. Yet the NHS in 2016 is underfunded, underdoctored and overstretched. A shortfall in NHS funding and a shortage of essential front-line staff is damaging patient care and putting staff under pressure.

This report explores the challenges that face the NHS from the perspective of junior doctors, and it is drawn directly from their experiences. It is uncomfortable but essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand the reality of being a junior doctor in 2016.


Seven in 10 junior doctors work on a rota that has a permanent gap. Junior doctors commonly go through seven shifts per month without drinking enough water, and four shifts per month without eating a meal.


96% of junior doctors feel valued by the patients they care for, but feel that they spend too much time away from them: 41% of junior doctors report that the burden of excessive administrative work poses a serious risk to patient safety in their hospital.


Four in five junior doctors regularly experience excessive stress because of their job. One in four junior doctors report that their role has had a serious impact on their mental health.

Being a physician is challenging, but rewarding. The RCP champions a system in which trainees are:

  • Valued for the care they give to patients and provided with the facilities they need to deliver outstanding care.
  • Supported in training and education, given the time and space for career planning and allowed the freedom to pursue a life outside of medicine.
  • Motivated by a culture that respects, develops and engages them fully to ensure that the best care is provided for patients and the future of the NHS.

The system must be properly resourced so that all staff are able to provide safe and effective care for patients, and to protect their own wellbeing. This means increasing health and social care funding and training more doctors.