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Introduction to the flexible working toolkit

There is currently a healthcare workforce crisis. There are insufficient UK trainees to fill vacancies in medical, nursing and other healthcare posts, exacerbated by those leaving prematurely. This toolkit looks at opportunities for physicians to work flexibly, as an alternative to leaving the NHS.

The medical workforce is changing demographically and the traditional route of full-time clinical training with direct progression to a full-time consultant post to retirement may not work for everyone. Opportunities for variety in the types of work undertaken are needed, as is the ability to decrease, increase, stop and return to that work.

This toolkit follows discussions at the ‘Stopping the exodus, solutions!’ conference, which took place on 16 September 2019 at the Royal College of Physicians (RCP). It provides some tried and tested examples of flexible ways of working as well as top tips for doctors at different stages of their career.

The issue of how to retain doctors in the workforce is critical

General Medical Council (GMC) [1]

This toolkit was the combined authorship of the RCP Flexibility and Wellbeing group and was prepared by:

Dr Gemma Simons
Clinical research fellow Centre for Workforce Wellbeing
University of Southampton

Dr Harriet Gordon
Consultant gastroenterologist
Hampshire Hospitals Foundation Trust UK


  1. General Medical Council. The state of medical education and practice in the UK 2018. London: GMC, 2018. https://www.gmc-uk.org/about/what-we-do-and-why/data-and-research/the-state-of-medical-education-and-practice-in-the-uk (Accessed 11 December 2019)