A third of junior doctors say rota gaps have worsened their training, GMC finds

Authors: Abi Rimmer 

Publication date:  04 Jul 2017

A third of junior doctors think that they have lost opportunities for learning because of gaps in rotas, a survey by the UK General Medical Council has found.[1]

On Tuesday 4 July the GMC published the initial findings from its 2017 national training survey. The survey received 53 335 responses from UK doctors in training (a 98% response rate) and was conducted between 21 March and 10 May 2017.

Responding to the survey, 32% of trainees disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement, “In my current post, educational/training opportunities are rarely lost to gaps in the rota.”

The survey also received responses from 24 577 trainers (a 54% response rate), 27% of whom said that they thought rota gaps had affected doctors’ training.

The questions on rota gaps were included in the survey for the first time this year, after the regulator heard from doctors in training, trainers, and employers that poor rota design could have a big effect on the quality of medical education.

Charlie Massey, the GMC’s chief executive, said that it was important to treat the results with caution, as the questions had been tested only for the first time this year. “However, the results do reflect the concerns that have been raised previously by doctors in training,” he said, “and they suggest rota issues are affecting some doctors’ access to education and training.

“We know frontline health services are under huge pressure at the moment, but education providers must do their utmost to make sure rotas provide doctors with sufficient access to learning opportunities and to minimise the adverse effects of fatigue and workload.”

The GMC survey also found that over half (54%) of UK trainees worked beyond their rostered hours daily or weekly. However, this proportion was lower than in 2016, when 59% of trainees gave the same answer.

The proportion of trainees who reported that their working pattern left them short of sleep on a daily or weekly basis also fell slightly, from 24% in 2016 to 22% in 2017. The proportion of trainees describing the intensity of their work as heavy or very heavy fell similarly, from 43% in 2016 to 41% in 2017.

Despite ongoing concerns about their working environment, trainees responding to the survey reported high levels of satisfaction with their training. When asked to rate the quality of their training experience 7% rated it as poor or very poor, down from 9.5% the previous year. A high proportion (82%) of trainees rated the quality of their experience as excellent or good.

Commenting on the findings, Massey welcomed the apparent improvement to trainees’ workloads since last year. “This is welcome, and it’s important that we acknowledge the work being done, across all four UK nations, to deal with these pressures,” he said.

“However, it is too early to determine whether it is the start of a longer term trend,” Massey added. “We know from our wider conversations with trainees that the situation for them continues to be very challenging. In the meantime it is important that education providers do what they can to protect the quality of training and the wellbeing of doctors, using the results of this year’s surveys to target their efforts.”


  1. General Medical Council. 2017 national training surveys summary report: initial results on doctors’ training and progression. 4 Jul 2017. [Link] .

Abi Rimmer BMJ Careers


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