New consultants feel poorly prepared for non-clinical aspects of role

Authors: Helen Jaques 

Publication date:  25 Jul 2012

Specialty training may not prepare doctors adequately for the non-clinical aspects of the consultant’s job, a survey of more than 200 new consultants in the north of England has found.[1]

New consultants thought that specialty training had prepared them better for the “delivery of care” parts of the job, such as communicating with patients and leading a ward round, than for the “organisation of care” aspects, such as making decisions about resource allocation and leading a team.

The authors say that specialty training programmes should provide more training in management and leadership—in particular, resource management, service development, supervision, and dealing with poor performance—alongside developing the clinical expertise that is at the core of the consultant’s role.

A total of 211 consultants in 14 specialties who had completed their specialty training in the Northern Deanery and had been working in a substantive consultant post in the region for less than five years completed the survey (71% response rate).

The responses showed that new consultants felt most prepared for the “being a clinician” parts of the consultant role, with clinical skills such as selecting appropriate investigations and patient communication skills ranked the highest.

Respondents felt least prepared for the non-clinical management aspects of the role, which are important for ensuring that a healthcare organisation provides high quality care. Preparedness for resource management and supervising other doctors were ranked low, as were time management and skill in “supporting activities” such as research and using IT for patient care.

One respondent said, “The system of rotating around hospitals generally provided good and varied clinical training. However, it made it difficult to become involved in some of the non-clinical aspects of the job, particularly designing new services and initiating and managing change.”

The findings do not necessarily mean that new consultants are unprepared or lack competence, say the authors. However, the capacity to gain non-clinical skills needs to be seen as “core” by trainees and trainers alike, they say.


  1. Morrow G, Burford B, Redfern N, Briel R, Illing J. Does specialty training prepare doctors for senior roles? A questionnaire study of new UK consultants. Postgrad Med J  5 Jul 2012. doi: [Link] .

Helen Jaques news reporter BMJ Careers

Cite this as BMJ Careers ; doi: