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RCP responds to 2021 GMC National Training Survey

The General Medical Council (GMC) has published the summary findings of its 2021 national training survey. It found that the pandemic increased burnout among doctors.

The GMC’s annual survey of doctors in training reflects what has been a very difficult year for trainees amidst COVID-19. Burnout is a growing issue and experiences of training recovery following the disruption has been patchy. More positively, in general trainees continue to rate the quality of training and clinical supervision highly.

Key UK-wide findings include:

  • Almost nine in ten trainees described their clinical supervision as good or very good. And eight in ten told us they’re on course to meet their curriculum competencies/outcomes for this year.
  • Nine in ten trainers told us they enjoyed their role supporting the next generation of doctors.
  • 33% of trainees, 25% of secondary care trainers and 22% of GP trainers told us they felt burnt out to a high or very high degree because of their work. Trainees in ophthalmology and general practice posts had the highest increase in burnout levels. For trainers, this was felt most acutely in public health, general practice and occupational medicine.
  • 55% of GP trainers, 44% of secondary care trainers and 44% of trainees felt their work was emotionally exhausting to a high or very high degree. 29% of trainers told us they weren’t always able to use time allocated to them to train.

The GMC will provide in-depth analysis of the results later in the year as part of its annual The state of medical education and practice in the UK report.

Commenting on the survey findings, Dr Rachel Jones and Dr Michael FitzPatrick, co-chairs of the RCP Trainees Committee, said:

“It has been a traumatic 18 months for everyone in the NHS, with trainees being redeployed and training disrupted. These findings show the toll the pandemic has taken on both the wellbeing and career progression of those in training.

“Most worryingly, a third of trainees feel burnt out to a high or very high degree - the highest figure on record. Almost half (44%) felt their work was emotionally exhausting to a high or very high degree.

“The picture with regard to the recovery of training is more mixed. Virtual learning environments have worked well, but we are concerned that almost a third say they have been unable to replace training opportunities with other transferable skills. Similarly, it is worrying that half of trainees were not provided with effective alternatives through simulation facilities or exercises.

“But it is reassuring that the quality of teaching and clinical supervision has not dipped below pre-pandemic levels. We agree with the GMC that we now need to be as flexible as possible when it comes to training, ensuring that we give our trainees the support and experiences they need to progress.”

The RCP will use the results of the survey in its influencing work, particularly to make the case for doubling medical school places and greater transparency and accountability in workforce planning.