Majority of juniors take a break from training, survey finds

Authors: Abi Rimmer 

Publication date:  01 Mar 2018

Over half of junior doctors take a break during their training, a BMA survey has found.

Jeeves Wijesuriya, BMA junior doctors committee chair, said that the findings meant it was vital for employers to help trainees return to work.

The BMA sent the survey to junior doctors in the UK in autumn 2017 and received 2164 responses.[1] It does not have a response rate because the survey was open to all junior doctors, including non-BMA members, and was shared through social media and BMA newsletters.

The survey found that 26% of respondents had taken a break in their training to travel. A slightly smaller proportion (24%) had taken time out for maternity or paternity leave, 21% to work as a locum, and 19% to improve their health and wellbeing.

The study found that female trainees were far more likely to take a break for maternity leave (35%) than male trainees were to take paternity leave (2%).

Some 42% of female trainees said that they would take a break in their training to decide on their preferred specialty, compared with less than a third (32%) of men. Conversely, male trainees were more likely than women to consider taking a break to improve their chances of securing their preferred training post (27% v 17%).

Trainees who were undecided on their specialty or were training in emergency medicine were most likely to take a break at the end of their second year of foundation training, the survey found.

Wijesuriya said the findings showed that workforce planning needed to consider that junior doctors valued their work-life balance and wanted greater flexibility.

He said, “Current data suggest that the majority of those who took breaks in the past have returned to training; however, there is no guarantee that this will continue to happen, and our research shows that the process of re-entering training can be fraught with difficulties.”

He also expressed concern that a considerable number of junior doctors said that they had taken a break for health and wellbeing reasons. “The NHS is in the midst of a recruitment and retention crisis, and the government must urgently work with the BMA and other organisations to address these systemic issues, to ensure a workforce and health service fit for the future,” he said.


  1. BMA. Understanding trends among current doctors in training. 1 March 2018. [Link] .

Abi Rimmer The BMJ

Cite this as BMJ Careers ; doi: